Recently, I found myself in a bit of trouble. After work I stopped at a store to pick up a few items on the way home. When I left the store, the car would not start. The battery was dead, because I had left the lights on. Jumper cables were in the trunk. But I needed to find someone with a working automobile to help me recharge the battery.
As I scanned the parking lot, a man came out of the store and walked toward a vehicle just a couple of rows away from mine. He was very similar to me, apparently of the same age, social class and ethnic background. I approached the man and asked for help with my car. The man said that he could not help, because he was afraid that doing so would mess up the sensor in his vehicle. After being turned down, I returned to my car.
As I scanned the parking lot again, another man walked out of the store. He was different than me, of a different age, social class and ethnic background. But, unlike the first man, when I asked for help, he gladly pulled his car around and helped me. I thanked the man, and began to drive home.
As I drove home, I thought to myself that my experience was similar to Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, recorded in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 10:29-37) In the parable, Jesus told the story of a Jewish traveler who was attacked, robbed and left for dead on the road. Later, Jewish priest saw the man lying on the side of the road, but did nothing to help. Later still, another Jewish man also saw the man lying on the road, but did nothing to help. Even later, a Samaritan saw the man and took care of the man. One interesting part of the story is that Samaritans and Jews did not get along in that day. Yet, the hero of the story was a Samaritan, who stopped to help a Jewish man in need.
Jesus told this story in response to a question. He had been talking to a young theologian about the greatest commandment. Jesus and the theologian agreed that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind; the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Somehow, the theologian felt the need to justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Then, Jesus asked the theologian which of the men was a neighbor to the man on the road. The theologian rightly said the Samaritan was the neighbor. Jesus told the theologian, “Go and do likewise.”
As I considered the parable and my recent experience, I was reminded of some important truths. First, we should care about people. Jesus stated that the Samaritan had compassion on the man on the road. He cared. We will do nothing for others if we do not care. We need to pray for and cultivate compassion for the people around us.
Second, we should not judge people based on outward appearances. In Jesus’ parable and my recent experience, the people who were least expected to help gave assistance. The people who were most expected to help did not. Outward appearances do not determine inward character. Like the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Third, our compassion for people should be demonstrated by our actions. The Samaritan and the man who helped me showed that they cared by doing something. It means nothing to say you care, if you do not show you care.
Jesus encouraged the theologian to be like the good Samaritan. I believe He would tell us to do the same thing today. Each of us should be a “good Samaritan.”