We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s a Sunday School story; even if we didn’t grow up as Christadelphians or didn’t grow up going to a church at all, we probably heard it somewhere at some time, and if not the story, then at least the term “Good Samaritan;” here in the states, there’s medical laws named after the Good Samaritan. In a recent survey, when participants were asked to name a parable of Jesus, the majority of them answered with “The Good Samaritan.” It’s a very easy to understand; it’s not like so many other parables where there’s a “Christadelphian” interpretation.
So it begins with a lawyer asking Jesus: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a pretty important question; he’s asking Jesus what he needs to do to be in the Kingdom, to live forever. And Jesus asks him what is written in the Law; the very thing that the lawyer loves, the Law of Moses. The lawyer quotes from Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And it’s interesting isn’t it, that at first this lawyer doesn’t have a legalistic mindset; if he was legal about it, he could have rattled off all the commandments in the Law of Moses. He knew what Jesus had said about how the entire law was summed up in these two commandments. Jesus tells him that he has answered rightly, to follow those two commandments and he will live.
Then the lawyer becomes legalistic; he asks “Who is my neighbor?” Trying to justify himself by what Jesus said. And that was the lawyer’s problem: he thought that following the letter of the law could justify him. He was looking for a formula; a prescribed method like a checkbox that he could check off and thus get eternal life. And that can be our problem too; we can follow the law letter-for-letter but if we don’t live by the spirit of the law, what good is it?
Jesus says that a “man” is going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and he falls among robbers who beat him up. I’ve heard people say that this man was a Jew; but the Bible never makes it clear; simply because it doesn’t matter who he was or what nationality he was; Israelite, American, Korean, even Canadian. If he was a Jew, the lawyer may have tried justifying himself again. But no, this was just an ordinary man.
He’s laying there half dead by the road, and a Priest sees him and passes by on the other side, knowing that he would have been made unclean by coming in contact with the man. Then, along comes a Levite, who looks at the man and then passes by.
Brother HP Mansfield in The Story of the Bible, Volume 6, writes, “The Levite could easily conclude that the victim was a foreigner. Under such circumstances, according to his understanding of the Law, it was neither needful nor advisable to contract defilement by assisting him (page 226).”
Some people tend to forget about these two; just skipping ahead to the Good Samaritan part of the story. But I think the lesson would be missing something if we failed to make mention of the Priest and the Levite. They decided not to show compassion because they risked their own cleanliness. To them, purity was seen as “touch not, taste not, handle not (Colossians 2:21);” a very legalistic view of God and a Pharisaical way to live, and Paul tells us to leave that mindset behind.
As we know, the Pharisees were not very “warm and fuzzy” people. I’d like to read a paragraph from “The Judaizers.” He says “The Pharisees did not only justify themselves, but they held others in contempt up to and including the Son of God. They were so encompassed by their legalism that they resorted to the most amazing hypocrisy. For example, they would plot to kill the Son of God, yet they would not enter into a Gentile’s house close to the Passover lest they be defiled (page 31).”
Unfortunately we sometimes see this “holier than thou” and hypocritical attitude even in the brotherhood. I have seen people who insist that “true brothers and sisters (of course implying that they are)” don’t do this, don’t do that, for example, don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving because it is a “pagan holiday,” yet the same people went on a public Christadelphian internet forum and threw out insults left and right and breathed out threats at their brothers and sisters, sometimes even calling them by their names, just to embarrass them and make them look bad, as if their actions toward their brethren were justified by their “holiness” and treating others like dirt was justified by knowing “The Truth (with a capital T).” Their words were more venomous than anything they touched, tasted, or handled. Defilement does not come by touching, tasting, or handling, but rather by what comes from inside us (Matthew 15:18). James 3:6 says that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.
From “Legalism vs. Faith,” “Under the Pharisees’ version of the law, holiness came from doing less and less. The more one avoided, the more holiness one had. Even good works had limitations: not on the Sabbath, not to lepers, not to Samaritans, not with sinners, not if it meant eating with Gentiles (page 142).”
They kept the letter of the law, yet no other group of people was condemned by Jesus more than them because they made the commandments of God of none effect by their tradition and taught for doctrine the commandments of men (Matthew 15:6, 9). They had a form of godliness but denied its power to transform them (2 Timothy 3:5).
Jesus broke the letter of the law all the time and there’s one reason, and that is compassion. He healed the paralyzed man and forgave his sins (Luke 5:23); he broke the law of fellowshipping with sinners so he could care for Levi (Mark 2:13-17); he broke the fasting laws so he could feed the hungry (Mark 8:1-9), and he broke the Sabbath by healing the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6).
I’m not saying we should have the attitude of “anything goes,” but we certainly shouldn’t have the attitude of “nothing goes” either. Someone told me recently about a group of Christadelphians who have a thirty-page list of bans; things that people who are “in the group” better not do, or else. It makes for some interesting reading.
The Pharisees only cared about themselves; their own well-being, just like the Priest and Levite. It’s the exact opposite of compassion. As one brother said a few weeks ago, “compassion is about connection, not separation,” and that “compassion is not always convenient, but it’s always continuous.” If we think we can stay holy by avoiding everything, we are only living in fear, like the man who went and hid the talent in the ground (Matthew 25:24).
The Pharisees were not only guilty of avoiding, but guilty of making a checklist of things they had done like the one who thanked God that he was not as other men like the tax collector because of all the commandments he obeyed (Luke 18:11-12). I could make a list of things I’ve done for God (given two exhortations at Richmond-Petersburg, given a teen devotion at Shippensburg, Great Lakes, and Eastern, presided over adult classes for a day at Eastern, led the Teen Mixer at Shippensburg, presided over evening devotions at Hanover, led Monday Night Class on Esther) but our good works should be continuous and not with the mindset of just trying to impress God.
Compassion requires getting your hands dirty; it is about feeling the suffering of another human being. And it means maybe giving up something that you did not intend to give up (the Samaritan gave up his wine, oil, bandages, and his seat on his donkey). Compassion is putting others first; to be a servant to others as Jesus was (John 13:15). This is what religion is, according to James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction…” God never means to make it sound like the Bible is limiting us to them; we’re not only obligated to the fatherless and the widows (and we have fatherless in this meeting as well as a widow), but to the poor, the lame, the maimed, the blind (Luke 14:13) or anyone who needs our compassion, and whose suffering we can feel. The third part of that verse says “and to keep oneself unspotted from the world;” think of how many worldly people Jesus associated with. Again, from “The Judaizers:”
“Jesus would never have been caught dead in the feast of the tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:11) had there been a sort of leaking sin just by association (legalistic defilement). Yet, he did attend such meals and taught them the truth. Rather than allowing his moral standards to decline in their presence, he brought theirs up (page 277).”
The Samaritan went all the way with his compassion; he even offered to pay the innkeeper more if necessary, and he did not ask for compassion from the innkeeper (“Look, I’m just helping someone out, can you go easy on me?”). Compassion pays all costs and keeps no record of debits and credits.
For a minor “worldly” example of compassion: (I saw this story in the news while I was at the Eastern Bible School and it was a great addition to what I was going to be saying that Friday in my devotion and perfect for the crowd). The Red Sox and Yankees have had a heated rivalry for about a hundred years; almost every season they compete to finish on the top of their division to make it to the playoffs. Last year (somehow), the Red Sox won the division and won the World Series, and whenever that happens for either team, it makes the other team’s fans dislike them even more. Recently, a Red Sox staff member from the 2013 World Series-winning team was having dinner in a restaurant in Manhattan and he accidentally left his Championship ring at the sink in the bathroom. It was found by a Yankees fan. The Red Sox staff member offered him a good sum of money, but instead the Yankees fan returned the ring and would not accept a reward. Compassion does not desire compensation.
The Samaritan was the real neighbor, despite being someone whom the Jews hated from birth.
Back to The Story of the Bible, “As a Samaritan, this traveller was unfettered by the pharisaical constraints of such man-made laws, as prevented the priest and Levite from helping the wounded man. Therefore, when he saw him lying helpless, and apparently dead, by the roadside, he did not pass him by. Instead, he was moved with compassion at what he saw, and immediately set aside all barriers that might normally have existed. Not being governed by false teachings regarding the Law, he naturally did what the Law commanded (page 228).”
If everyone in this world lived as the Good Samaritan did, every lawyer would be out of a job, because there would be no more lawsuits.
We should never assess who is qualified to deserve our love; look at all God has done for us, do we deserve his love? “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:9).”
And when Jesus asks the lawyer who was the neighbor in this parable, the lawyer rightly says “the one who had mercy on him.” It’s one of God’s requirements: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)?” The mercy that God shows toward us is unlimited as long as the mercy we show to others is unlimited.
I was on a website recently and I read an article called “Five Psychological Experiments That Prove Humanity is Doomed.” One of the experiments was called “The Good Samaritan Experiment.”
“Psychologists John Darley and C. Daniel Batson wanted to test if religion has any effect on helpful behavior. Their subjects were a group of seminary students. Half of the students were given the story of the Good Samaritan and asked to perform a sermon about it in another building. The other half were told to give a sermon about job opportunities in a seminary. As an extra twist, subjects were given different times that they had to deliver the sermon so that some would be in a hurry and others not. Then, on the way to the building, subjects would pass a person slumped in an alleyway, who looked to be in need of help. The people who had been studying the Good Samaritan story did not stop any more often than the ones preparing for a speech on job opportunities. The factor that really seemed to make a difference was how much of a hurry the students were in. In fact, if pressed for time, only ten percent would stop to give any aid, even when they were on their way to give a sermon about how awesome it is for people to stop and give aid.”
Our good deeds must be done in obedience to the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor (Mark 12:31).” If our good deeds are done just to be seen by others, we already have our reward (Matthew 6:2). We can do all the good deeds there are to do and still not love our neighbor, in that if we don’t care about our neighbor’s well-being, as the Good Samaritan did, maybe even to a man who would naturally be his enemy, our deeds are dead.
Brother James Robinson gave a teen devotion at Shippensburg last time I was there. He said that if we love someone, we want what’s best for them and that if we love someone that we’re not going to try to do something that upsets them. That’s why we don’t need to make a “checklist” of things we have to do and things we can’t do as Christians; God didn’t give us a list of bad words we can’t say or whatever, but he gave us principles. Of course there are commandments that we have to follow; but our love for God and our neighbor is what should actually motivate us to good works. If we love our neighbor we’re not going to just ignore them when we see them hungry or thirsty or in need.
We are also to “love our enemies,” and to “do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who spitefully use us, to give to everyone who asks of us, to be merciful as our Father in Heaven is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).”
The children of Israel were commanded to love the “stranger” just as they loved their own: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:34).”
Sodom and Gomorrah were very prideful cites and we know there were many reasons that they were overthrown; but Ezekiel makes it a point to say that Sodom failed to “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).”
Brother Alan Hermann posted on facebook recently: “If the world was a town of one thousand people, sixty would own half the total wealth, five hundred would be hungry, six hundred would live in slums and seven hundred would not be able to read or write. This is our town since it is our world. What are we doing about it? Consider, meditate and act on Matthew 25:31-46:
‘I was hungry, and you set up a committee and discussed my hunger. I was naked, and you debated the morality of my appearance. I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your health. I was homeless, and you told me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God. I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me. You seem so holy and close to God. But I am still hungry, lonely, sick and cold, so where have your prayers gone?’ What does it profit us to read our Bible and book of prayers when seventy percent of the world is asking for our help? ‘How can we love God if we don’t love the people we can see (1 John 4:20)?’”
Brother Neil Thomasson said, “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s apathy.”
In Christadelphia we have quite a few charities (Christadelphian Meal-A-Day, Williamsburg Christadelphian Foundation, Agape In Action) who are out to do good works in the name of Jesus. The intention is great, but we can always act locally. The opportunity is always there.
Jesus says that inasmuch as we have fed or clothed or taken in or visited the least of his brethren, we have done it for him (Matthew 25:40), or that inasmuch as we have not done it for the least of these, we have not done it for him (Matthew 25:45). But notice how he does not say “the least of these my brethren”; he says “the least of these.” If we are to believe that every word in the Bible is there for a reason, we can see that Jesus was not just referring to his brethren as to who we should do good for, but rather to anyone and everyone; brother or stranger. We should treat everyone as we would treat Jesus himself. Notice too that the people who are rejected are not rejected because they did not have a certain doctrine right or because they failed to do the “daily readings,” or because they overslept and missed Sunday School; they are rejected after trying to defend themselves by essentially saying, “Well, Lord, if we had known that it was you, we would have done it!” That’s no excuse; our attitude should be the same regardless of who we are dealing with; not just when we’re surrounded by brothers and sisters; it’s easy to do good then. As we therefore have opportunity, we are to do good unto all men (Galatians 6:10). Jesus was good to everyone regardless of age, sex, race, or anything else. Think back to when you may have treated someone badly or just simply didn’t show them any favor just because they disagreed with you or because you two don’t get along, or because they might not have been one of “your people.” We are also told that if our enemy if hungry, we are to feed him, and if he is thirsty, we are to give him drink (Romans 12:20). Doing good unto “all men” doesn’t translate to “all men who are good to us or who we like.” We are to “owe no man anything but to love one another (Romans 13:8).” There is no justifying ourselves for excluding someone just because they were not one of “our people.” Where there are manmade laws, there are loopholes; it’s how some murderers get away with it. We can’t find a loophole in the commandments of Jesus, and we can’t go above and beyond, because we are already told to do good unto all (Galatians 6:10).
Opportunities to do good do not always involve helping someone with money or feeding them or giving them material things. Doing good, of course, involves preaching when given the opportunity. Light shines best in darkness. Not every opportunity to do good involves an opportunity to preach, but many will. We never know who is going to be the next brother or sister, and our actions may very well speak louder than any words we say to people. A mainstream Christian once said “I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” Another brother said that our statement of faith should be the way we live.
The Golden Rule states that we should “do unto others as we would have them do unto
, for in this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).”
Jesus asks us, that if we only love those who love us, what reward do we have? And if we salute our brethren only, what good is it? Do the sinners not do the same (Matthew 5:46-47)? Even the most wicked of people can still love their “people.” Brother Bob Lloyd once said that even the Mafia “loves their mother. And they’re wicked!” We are called to a much higher standard; our neighbor is our fellow human being, who we are to show compassion for.
Continuing in “Legalism vs. Faith,” “The freedom we have is the liberation from those social restrictions which limit our usefulness to others. This therefore allows us to work on the Sabbath, eat with Gentiles, preach to Samaritans, offer balm to lepers and sinners…’Take my yoke upon you,’ [Jesus] asks of us. ‘I touched lepers, talked with Samaritans, ate with sinners, and fed the Gentiles.’ That’s freedom—freedom of service, not freedom of self-indulgence. This freedom means that in Christ, as long as we orient our lives to good works, preaching, serving, and holiness, we can do so in any fashion, without fear of the ‘unclean (page 142).’”
The Pharisees said that good works have limits. Jesus used the example of the sheep that fell into a pit, to tell us that the only limitation to our good works is our ability to do them; that it is always lawful to do good (Matthew 12:11-12).
If love does not motivate our good works, they are in vain (1 Corinthians 13:3). The question for us should not be, “Who is my neighbor?” but rather, “How can I show love like a neighbor?” The lawyer had the same mindset as the Priest and the Levite. Again, Brother Mansfield: “The priest and the Levite had it in their power to help the man, but they did not do so because their love of self, induced by a wrong interpretation of Scripture, blinded them to the true requirements of God, and the need of those in want. The Samaritan was not so affected, and was able to help the man according to his ability so to do (page 228).”
Jesus finishes by saying “go and do likewise.”
We must remember that it is our duty as brothers and sisters of Jesus, to continue in well-doing (Galatians 6:9).
The parable of the Good Samaritan is a story of compassion, told by Jesus, the best Samaritan; the superlative of compassion. He feels our sufferings because he was tempted in all points as we are (Hebrews 4:15). He takes care of our wounds, he says, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28),” and he went as far as to die for us. And in the near future, he is going to be the most compassionate ruler that this world has ever seen. And compassion will be absolutely necessary; the Kingdom is going to bring peace to the earth but it certainly will not be a perfect place until the thousand years are over because there will still be mortal human beings, and where there are mortal human beings, there is sin and suffering. Jesus and his saints will have overcome all of that (Acts 14:22) and will be able to feel the sufferings of the people we reign over. It’s what we are being trained for now, to be the compassionate rulers of the future.
We will close with a few verses from Psalm 72, about the compassion that Jesus will show toward the nations in the Kingdom age when he reigns as king of all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). “He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. For he shall deliver the needy; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed (Psalm 72:2-4, 6, 12-14, 17).”