This is a reflection. What follows was not written by me. I just copied material written by other authors.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
“I’ll pray for you.”
Before I get into this, I want to say, prayer is the most important thing we can do for someone. Breakthroughs come from God, from the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Miracles come through prayer.
With that said, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this floating around in my head for a while, mainly a couple of problems with this being our sole response to people who are hurting, or in need.
1. Empty words.
Sometimes we say “I’ll pray for you” because it’s a good thing to say. It’s the Christian thing to say. Where others might say “I’m sorry for your situation” or “I hope it gets better,” We Christians say “I’ll pray for you.”
The leader of our women’s prayer group at church has this rule. As soon as a prayer request is mentioned, we immediately stop and pray. It’s how she lives her life, because she realizes that without doing this, there is a very good possibility that we’ll forget or not get around to it.
Prayer is great, but we say “I’ll pray for you,” more often than we actually do it.
Put it in action: If you see someone struggling, hurting, or in need–stop what you’re doing and pray for them. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or eloquent, and maybe you’ll revisit it later and pray more in depth, but praying immediately ensures that you’ll honor your word.
2. It replaces practical help.
In James 2:14-17, we read this: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? …If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
My husband and I used to do this funny skit, called the $50 skit. It’s about a college student who needs $50 to pay his electric bill. In the skit, he meets a series of people, each one a Christian who has been blessed with an extra $50. Thus begins a hilarious episode of each friend trying to help him get what he needs, using everything from “faith aerobics” to getting down on your belly to be “humble enough”, and “naming it and claiming it”. In the end, a final person walks up to him–after his faith has been beaten down, and says simply “I don’t know what you’re going through, but the Lord put it on my heart to give you this $50.” It’s funny, but powerful.
I was reminded of this skit recently when my friend shared a story about her 3 year old daughter. She had told her daughter at the store, “You can’t run away–I need you to help me.” To which her daughter replied: ”Okay, I’ll just pray for you.”
This innocent, funny story pierced my heart with conviction. On the one hand–it’s evidence of her mother’s teaching that she thought of prayer first, and that’s awesome. But at the same time, how often do we do this?
How often do we say “I’ll pray for you,” when the practical help is within our power to give?
God works through people sometimes. You and me.
Sarah Mae, in talking about her book Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, talks about how moms need physical help sometimes. And don’t we all?
Is there someone that you can offer physical, practical help to today? What’s stopping you?
Power of Prayer
I fully believe in the power and importance of prayer. There are so many times where we need God to step in because nothing else will help–heart issues, healing, etc.
But maybe, sometimes, we should be a little more hands on. Yes, pray for others. But also offer practical, physical support as well.
Is there a time in your life when someone has offered you real, practical help?
~ in “Offering Practical Help to Others” by Crystal Brothers – “Serving Joyfully blog,” May 15, 2013
Martin Luther King, Jr. often spoke of this parable, contrasting the rapacious philosophy of the robbers, and the self-preserving non-involvement of the priest and Levite, with the Samaritan’s coming to the aid of the man in need. King also extended the call for neighborly assistance to society at large:
“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
~ from the entry “Parable of the Good Samaritan” in Wikipedia / Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Time to Break the Silence,” quoted in Douglas A. Hicks and Mark R. Valeri, Global Neighbors: Christian Faith and Moral Obligation in Today’s Economy, Eerdmans Publishing, 2008, ISBN 0-8028-6033-8, p. 31.
To show compassion is to suffer with the wounded and the suffering, to share their pain and agony. Compassion does not leave us indifferent or insensitive to another’s pain but calls for solidarity with the suffering. This is how Jesus, the Good Samaritan par excellence, showed compassion. At times we can be like the priest and the scribe who, on seeing the wounded man, passed by on the other side. We can be silent spectators afraid to involve ourselves and dirty our hands.
Compassion demands that we get out of ourselves as we reach out to others in need. It means that we get our hands and even our reputations dirty. Indifference is worse than hostility. The hostile person at least acknowledges the presence of the other while reacting violently to it; the indifferent person, on the other hand, ignores the other and treats him as if he did not exist. That was the kind of indifference and insensitivity shown by the priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side, leaving the wounded and waylaid traveler completely alone.
The Good Samaritan shows us what compassion and commitment are all about. He could have easily passed by on the other side. He could have closed his heart and refused to respond to a genuine need. But he stopped and knelt down beside the stranger who was hurting. At that moment, a neighbor was born. Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a Good Samaritan. This stopping and stooping, this pausing and kneeling down beside the suffering, is not done out of curiosity but out of love. The Samaritan’s compassion brings him to perform a whole series of actions. First he bandaged his wounds, then he took the wounded man to an inn to care for him, and before leaving, he gives the innkeeper the necessary money to take care of him.
Loving means acting like the Good Samaritan. We know that Jesus himself is the Good Samaritan par excellence; although he was God, he did not hesitate to humble himself to the point of becoming a man and giving his life for us. More than 2,000 years after this story was first told, it continues to move people deeply. It teaches us what authentic compassion, commitment and communion with others are all about.
~ in “Loving Means Acting Like the Good Samaritan” by Father Thomas Rosica — “Salt + Light blog,” July 9, 2013.