Parables Today: The Good Samaritan

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Do you remember the parable of the Good Samaritan from the Bible? Who is a good Samaritan from your perspective? 

We might say that a good Samaritan in today’s world is a person who goes out of their way to help someone in distress out of kindness, love, compassion, or duty.

The parable of the good Samaritan, as told in Luke 10:25–37, is a story of great compassion coming from an unlikely source. In the story, we encounter an injured Jewish man who, after being robbed and left to die by his assailants, sadly does not get help from the leaders of his own community—a priest and a Levite who pass him by on the road without helping him in his hour of need. 

The priest and the Levite are religious figures held in high esteem by society, but they fall short of what one might expect from them.

Later, a Samaritan comes by. He is out of place in Judea—in those days, most Samaritans and Jews held deep resentment toward one another. In spite of this, the Samaritan is the only one who stops to help. 

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Given the social climate of the day, it is surprising to see the Samaritan’s compassion toward the injured Jew. He demonstrates the ways in which love can break barriers by treating the injured man as a brother rather than an enemy. 

Jesus uses this compelling story to teach us about life and His unfailing love.

What Would You Do? 

How would you react in such a situation? Would you let stereotypes and negative perceptions prevent you from stretching out your hand to help someone in need? 

The parable resonates today in different ways. Just one year ago, we witnessed the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. What would you have done if you were a bystander? A fellow police officer? Could you have done anything at all? 

Ironically, those videoing the events on their phones, rather than being exploitive, may have actually helped by documenting the officers’ actions for the world to see.

What about the resulting explosion of protests and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement? Would you have marched with the protesters? Supported the business owners protecting their storefronts? Turned away from both? 

When so many are hurting, and for different reasons, how do we identify need and help those in pain? 

Help Where You Can, When You Can

If the Jewish man were robbed today, images of his bruised body would have flooded social media long before he even reached the hospital. It’s important to document injustice and spread information. But would you also have stopped to help him? Given him a drink of water? Called 911? 

Where injustice is more broad, you can help in other ways. Donate money to causes you support. Volunteer for organizations you believe in. Vote.

Many people would gladly take pictures or video, but fewer would go the extra mile to help. Be a good example by going out of your way to help someone in need regardless of where they come from or who they are. 

Be Kind to Everyone

Put yourself in the Samaritan’s shoes. What would have been your first thought? Would it have been the fact that the Jew was from a different race or social class? Or that he was dying and needed help?

Are you sometimes reluctant to help others who are having a tough time, especially if you don’t feel you can relate to their circumstances? 

Your acts of kindness could go a long way towards saving a life.  Regardless of race, ethnicity, or position, be kind.

Prejudices—racial and otherwise—have always been a roadblock to peaceful coexistence. Many people tend to hate or mistrust others who don’t look like them or share a common ethnicity.

 

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Today we assume that the Samaritan didn’t care about race—but even if he did, he cared about decency more. He showed that racism and negative attitudes have no place in humanity and that everyone deserves help, regardless of ancestry, position, identification, or skin color. We all belong to the human race.

Help without Expecting Anything in Return

Try being honest with yourself: Would you help someone if you knew well they would never return the favor? The Samaritan probably understood this but helped the wounded man anyway—because it was the right thing to do. 

Despite the circumstances, help wholeheartedly without expecting anything in return.

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