Haven’t you always just loved the Good Samaritan? Each and every time I have heard this story as told by Jesus in Luke 10, my heart is full of joy for the deeds of the Samaritan; but I must admit a great deal of disdain for the Priest and the Levite. I find it easy to feel contempt for them as they walked past this poor man in need simply turning away. I suppose, that you, like I have, have always determined in your heart to follow in the path of the Samaritan rather than the priest and Levite.
With all the frustration I have felt toward these religious persons who seemingly turned away from the need in front of them, I have recently begun to reread this passage and offer the slightest bit of grace to the priest and Levite that I had previously withheld. The passage doesn’t actually tell us where the priest and Levite were going or why they did not stop. It is quite easy to assume they were simply too pious, too busy, too self-righteous or self-consumed to stop, but what if it was none of those? What if they were in a hurry to get to the temple on time, or were on their way to work at a charity, had an important meeting to which they were afraid to be late? How many times have you thought of stopping to help an elderly person carry a heavy load, or thought about stopping to help someone with mechanical trouble only to realize you had only 5 minutes to be on time? How many times does our urgent agenda overshadow our opportunity to be the Samaritan?
Even more thought provoking, what if seeing someone maimed, needy or begging in the street was so common place they hardly noticed, or looked the other way simply because they could not help them all? I’m not certain of the conditions of Jericho and Jerusalem at this time, but from my American perspective, it was formerly hard to imagine more than one person in such great need simultaneously. In my current location, though, I see this as a great possibility.
You see, I’ve always envisioned myself (maybe you have too) as the one who would most certainly go out of my way to help the one in need. Recently, however, I’ve been surrounded by the maimed, the mad, the orphaned, abandoned, forlorn, homeless and destitute. While I often go out of my way to help one or a few, I simply cannot offer the empathy, compassion, encouragement or resources to the masses that I wish were possible. I may see a woman in the streets cradling a sick child, while I stop to help her get her child medical aid, I must walk past a man with no feet left on the side walk to beg, a woman blind and severely disfigured, and a barefoot child in ragged apparel who is picking trash. While it may be easy for a bystander to applaud my kindness to the one, my heart is overwhelmed with the multitudes needing their “Good Samaritan.”
It’s interesting how much we can add into a Bible story that is not actually in the Bible. Don’t we just assume that after the Samaritan took the victim to the inn and paid for his keeping that everything turned out happily? The truth is we don’t really know what happened. We don’t know if the man’s injuries continued to require treatment, if he survived, if he was found to have ongoing needs that the Samaritan needed to continue to aid. We don’t know about the bystanders and what they may have muttered. Can you hear the possibilities?
“Who does this Samaritan think he is.”
“He should just leave this man alone.”
“Leave this for the authorities to take care of.”
“That’s not how I would have done it.”
“Doesn’t he know this is dangerous?”
And what about the innkeeper? It’s not every innkeeper who is thrilled with the idea of being responsible for a man “left for dead.” Can we say, “liability lawsuit”? Wouldn’t it have been easy for him to complain, wonder why he had to take on this burden, or feel distraught that this would detract from the image of his inn, or interfere with the environment of other guests?
Sometimes, helping people feels really good. It’s rewarding and gratifying, but I’m realizing that being a “Good Samaritan,” actually gets a bit messy. It’s not all “happily ever after.” You see, helping people isn’t always easy; at times it is tricky, tiring, and even overwhelming. The answers are not always obvious, and others involved are not always supportive of the work you do. Believe it or not, sometimes the very ones you have worked the hardest to pick up from the rubble are not even grateful for what you have done. Yet, we are still called to love. We are compelled to have compassion for the hurting and wounded. We are asked to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
These are simply ponderings of my heart. I realize it is a parable, leaving much to the imagination. Feel free to share your thoughts, your wisdom, your lessons learned. I’m simply sharing a piece of my heart.