Ok, there's no bad Samaritan story. I just wanted to draw some attention to the two guys who left the bloke for dead.
We've all heard the good Samaritan story. It's about a couple of people who thought they were too clean and spiritual to help someone in need and another who didn't care about that and helped anyhow. Our story commences with a guy, presumably, a jew, who had been ambushed, beaten, robbed and left for dead on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Three people then enter the story. Two of which are high-level Jews, and one a despised Samaritan.
The main question in the story is who had the most love and mercy? Spiritual life is not so much about the amount of churchgoing and the keeping of rituals and doctrine, as it is about understanding the desires of God. (Hosea 6:6 "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.")
Jesus told the story after a discussion with a Jewish Lawyer about loving neighbours. The Lawyer asked a question as if he were speaking to a person in a witness box, trying to trap him, as they do, "And who is my neighbour?"
What makes us walk past people in need? We've all done it. Often it's hard to determine whether someone is genuinely in need or just scamming. I am very selective about whose 'cup' gets my money as I walk along the streets. Many are just backpackers looking for a free ride around Australia.
Also, we fear getting involved, as we don't know the future. We've seen movies about people who have helped someone, and that person ends up living in their house and won't leave.
The two bad Samaritans were both religious; one a priest, the other a Levite. They were reared with rules and teachings which came with bias. Rules often do when we don't understand God's intention for them. This gave the Law a bad reputation. Many of those teachings were not in the Law. For instance, the Sabbath day is meant to be kept holy. Something the Priests and Levites strictly kept. Yet Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27-28). If it wasn't, we wouldn't be able to help those in dire need, such as our fallen traveller if we passed him on the Sabbath Day, as no work was to be done on the Sabbath.
God would never have wanted anyone to walk past a destitute person as these two did. In fact, His Law states in Leviticus 19:18, "... but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord." To coin a modern phrase, the Lawyer, the Priest and the Levite were abiding by misinformation designed by their own priesthood, who had distorted the Law to suit their prejudice, but not suit God.
God's intention for scripture is that it be undergirded with love and mercy. Our two bad Samaritans used the law they were taught, but without the spirit attached. Their law and its unsympathetic bias prevented them from assisting. We must never forget that the Holy Spirit inspires all scripture, including the law. Galatians 5:21-22 shows us the fruit of that Holy Spirit overrides the law. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
The good Samaritan even paid for the restoration and accommodation of the injured person without knowing if he'd see that money again. He laid down part of his life for this poor soul. In life's long haul, that wasn't much to part with, but it was done. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us while we were sinners, the exact inference as to our Samaritan story.
For us, our hearts must always be tempered with love and mercy. The selfish view is that we could be lying by the side of the road in need one day. The Goldy view is to give our fears to God and help.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, please help me temper my judgments with mercy in these cases. I have no desire to be either of the bad Samaritans in this story or in life, but a person whose heart reflects your own and your purposes.
Photo by Fernando @cferdo