My Bible reading this morning took me to the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). I’ve read it and heard it many times. I was struck afresh this morning by how little they tell us about the man who was attacked, robbed, and left for dead. We know nothing about him. In fact, he seems to be merely an accessory for the story. We don’t know if he was a good man, if he repaid the Samaritan, or even thanked him. He is simply there. Jesus’ focus, rather, is on the passers-by.
The Levite and the Priest were well within their rights to avoid the man lying along the Jericho Road. Jesus’s listeners would have understood that. These were holy people, and to do their service for the people as a whole, they had to remain holy, set aside. No unclean or filthy thing could touch them, else they, too, would become contaminated, and unfit to serve.
The Samaritan came, he saw, and he acted.
The Teacher of the Law had asked Jesus who was his neighbor, a very Jewish question. He understood that he had to love his neighbor, but who was his neighbor. Like us, he wanted a handy definition. Who could he love, and how? I find myself asking similar questions. Am I helping a good person? Am
I wasting my efforts at charity. Exactly how much should I love others? I don’t want to lose in giving. Do you?
Jesus flipped the question around. We want to know who is our neighbor. Jesus asks us who can we be a neighbor to?
This challenges me. Whenever I pass a person begging in the streets, I lower my head, keep my hands in my pockets, and move on as quickly as I can, telling myself that the person is probably looking for money for drugs or alcohol. This is probably true, but I am beginning to see that this should not stop me from giving. The Samaritan gave without much thought as to what the man might do with the help he received.
God’s love and mercy are extravagantly boundless. God cares about what we do with the gifts He gives, but he still lets us choose. So great is His bounty that he can afford to be “wasteful.” I have received a mercy I do not deserve. Who am I to worry about squandering my mercy?
Who can I be a neighbor to?