The Good Samaritan: An Exception or a Rule?
Consider this paradox: If we are not generous poor, we will never be generous rich. There are many people who think that they cannot share what they have because they don’t have enough. They convince themselves that they will start sharing when they have enough or when they become rich. The reality however is different. As we have seen above, the rich people are more likely to close the needy out of their life. That brings me to consider the story of the Good Samaritan which was prompted by a lawyer asking Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
“And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”—Luke 10:30-37.
The man must have been extremely rich and exceptionally generous. After paying the host of the inn, note what he told him in vs. 35b “Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee”. You don’t tell a businessman to determine how much to sell to you, for you can be sure he will lavish you with way more than you need.
Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, captured the essence of the importance of money when she rightly observed that the story of the Good Samaritan could not have been told if he was poor.
When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, He didn’t create an impression he was spiritually inspired to prompt him to have he compassion he had on the injured man. This points to the fact that it is natural and human to be compassionate. This is why the Bible says,
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”—Ephesians 2:10.
We were predestined to do good works. That is one of the things that define our ‘humanity.’ Isn’t it paradoxical therefore that religious people—people who have been reconciled to God’s original purpose, can pass by a person in need and not show compassion?
In the story of the Good Samaritan, we find both an exception and a rule, depending on one’s perspective. Our original disposition was preordained to be that of compassion. To exude this, the Good Samaritan way should therefore be a rule. On the other hand, because the devil contaminated our original disposition, it has become ‘normal’ for the rich to hold so tight to their wealth. There is just too many needy in the world that if the rich were to be compulsively generous, they may not have their riches.
Like the Good Samaritan, our possession should help us put our compassion into practice. In a religious context, we readily understand that we are responsible for the welfare of our neighbour but it is a pity that what we readily understand we are reluctant to undertake. Is it any wonder that Jesus used a story of a “non-believer” to emphasise the seriousness of our reluctance?
We must not forget that the story of the Good Samaritan was told in the context of bad members of the society—thieves. Too bad for people who have decided to rob and steal. If people who didn’t help the robbed man were castigated, what will become of the robbers themselves? It may help to know that robbery is not confined to people who take away other people’s possessions. Robbers include people who take away or block other people’s opportunities to make a living. This means that there are poor people who are struggling because the ruling elite and the corporate world have made policies that are meant to keep the poor poor.
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”—Dom Hélder Câmara.
Our stewardship is not just to provide for the needs of the poor. It also involves asking why they are poor.
Reflections and Questions to Ponder1. What is the most important lesson you have learnt from this chapter?2. How do you test yourself against the vice of greed and selfishness?3. I made a statement above that a nation that allows corruption to flourish will never develop, it doesn’t matter how much resources they have.
a) There is a country that is arguably the richest in the world in terms of resources. Because of greed, corruption and political instability, this country is not developed. Do you know what country it is?
b) What other countries can you group under “rich” yet “poor”? What is the cause of their ‘poverty’?
c) In what ways can we also say that a person is “rich” yet “poor” because of corruption?4. People who are greedy may not readily accept that they are greedy. What are some of the characteristics of greed that can help you steer clear from unwittingly entering its territories?5. Greed doesn’t pay, it costs! In what ways will greed cost?6. It is common for people to perceive that what Jesus is teaching is relevant to others more than it is to them. What re the dangers of doing this?7. A young man had left the dining table to answer the telephone in the sitting room. When he came back, his brother had eaten all the food. In a struggling family without enough food, he had nothing to turn to. Annoyed, he roared: “And which dog gulped all the food?” “Who are you calling me a dog?” The brother responded. The result was that they fought viciously.
a) Who was to blame and why?
b) What would you have done if you were either of the two?
c) What was the root problem here: Lack or greed?8. If someone asked you: “Are you greedy? What would you answer? If a greedy person is asked: “Are you greedy?” What do you think he will answer? Supposing that you anticipate that he will deny that he is greedy, what does this tell you about your own answer when the same question was put to you?