A Fat Beggars Bible Study (BS) Lesson #I

Today’s text, brothers and sisters, is found in Luke 10:30-37.  This is one of the most famous passages of Scripture familiar to devout believers, agnostics and people living near 1225 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, California, alike.  Yes, I am referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It seems nearly everyone has heard of him – even if they don’t know that Jesus introduced him to the world.

The thing that most people don’t know about the Good Samaritan, except the devout believers who actually study the Bible from time to time, is that Samaritans are extremely unlikely to be neighborly to regular Jews (in Bible times, of course).  So when Jesus tells this parable to a group of Jews, he basically pits the neighborliness of a priest and a Levite (two people regular Jews of the time would expect to be good neighbors) against a dreaded Samaritan.  And Jesus’s parable shames the Jews listening to him that day with the hypothetical contrast.

What it boils down to, my friends,* is that this unlikely guy that everyone would naturally look down their nose at shows these uppity do-gooders what true neighborliness is.  You wanna live like God wants?  Okay, look at this Samaritan bum.  He will show you what the priest and the Levite won’t!

And so Jesus tells the story of a guy that gets beat up and left for dead on the side of life’s road.  (Actually, it is the road from Jericho into Jerusalem – a religious super highway of the ancient world that is filled with robbers and bad guys who rob unsuspecting travelers.)  And so as the guy lay there on the corner of Ave Q and Broadway bleeding and near death (you got to know the Greek to get that out of the text), this priest and later a Levite come by and actually hug the other side of the road, lock the door, roll up the window, and look the other way until the light changes!  Then they mash the pedal to the metal, and head off to church!

But the Samaritan comes along and stops to help.

Now you gotta really sharpen up your exegesis to get this, but when the Samaritan stops to help, he wants to make sure that he doesn’t inadvertently cause harm.  He has read the book, When Helping Hurts, and so he sure isn’t going to rob this man of his dignity by giving the guy money or actually taking care of his burden FOR him!  NO!!!  He is too smart for that.  “God helps those who help themselves,” he thinks; it’s not actually a verse in the Bible, but he knows it oughta be.  He is going to get the guy a job application, thumb through his rolodex and find a number at a nearby shelter where he can get band aids for his sucking chest wound at discounted prices, and buy a sandwich for the guy to ensure the money isn’t used to purchase wine.  (The NIV gets that wine part wrong.  That’s why they call it the NIV …Needs Improvement Version.)  This way the injured guy will retain his dignity and learn to take responsibility for himself.

This stuff is more in the Aramaic which is behind the Hebrew, which is behind the Greek, so you probably won’t find it translated exactly like that in your NIV, but trust me (or at least the boys that wrote When Helping Hurts); that’s what it means! (Or what it should have said.)

You see, that priest and Levite actually did that man a favor by heading on to worship without rendering aid.  The thing is that naïve help probably would have robbed the man of his dignity, thus robbing him twice, and so Jesus means for the Jews (and by way of application, us too) to learn how to help the man Samaritan-style, without hurting him.

Thank you for your participation.

Any questions?

*yes, this is a nod to Alanis Morissette

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2 comments

  1. Ryan · November 11, 2015

    Been thinking a lot about your post. Us church folk are so good at talking theology, but not so good at practicing love. To be able to live with our consciences we rationalize our condescending thoughts and actions and then search the Scriptures to support our ungodliness. Real-life love is harder than it seems, at least for me. Raw real-life love makes us vulnerable and uncomfortable so we create safe conditions for how and when we give it away. It is safer to give our love to people who are like us, but I don’t think this is the kind of love that Jesus wants most from us. I really appreciate your post and causing me to pause and think.

    Like

  2. Agent X · November 11, 2015

    Ryan, Thank YOU for stopping by… and opening the discussion portion of the BS 101 series.

    (This is my second attempt at responding to your comment…. My computer and internet connection is sometimes a crummy deal.)

    To respond:
    Yes, we have a “comfort zone” problem – aka DENIAL. It also is called, in sociology class “studied non-observance.” You can look right at the person and not see them. They are invisible, it seems. (I need to copy a journal entry about invisible people that I wrote back in the mid nineties for this blog. I was blown away, when God opened my eyes. I should share that with the world, I think.) And so my post here definitely challenges all of that.

    But the post is facetious and somewhat passive/aggressive too. I am not really comfortable with that aspect. I figure no one would be; that is part of the point. Wearing a prophet hat, one begins to consider how one might comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted – BY DESIGN.

    I happen to think the lawyer in Luke 10 that prompted the story of the Good Sam with his question was being a jerk, and Jesus’s answer matched his wit. Think about it. Jesus is showing up Israel’s A-team players (priests and Levites) with a dreaded Samaritan. Jesus is getting a bit gritty… a bit in the man’s hostile face! He is not telling a smooth-everything-out, don’t-make-any-waves-n-rock-the-boat reply here. He just schooled the man publically in getting shamed with his own horse’s ass question.

    This is not the father’s Oldsmobile nor your father’s flannel-board Jesus. This is The Master Prophet. And this kind of exchange with people of that kind of importance will be the death of him – eventually.

    Now, to be clear (and saving this for the comments section purposefully) I am a gracious man (as I think Jesus is too). However, unlike Jesus, I am a sinner. I struggle with the same denial I call out with this post. I want very badly to bury my head in the sand and forget my homeless friends tonight. I want very badly to trust the pastor when he tells me to read When Helping Hurts and thus send my check to him rather than give money to the poor. If I could just do that, then he could have a new car, and I could sleep easy tonight thinking the matter was settled because the professionals have it all under control. I really mean it. I wish!

    And I have my own shortcomings. Some of which I will discomfort my bros and sis’s over too. I will not condemn them. But I will point out the passages which seem to do that to them. I will read them for myself too. And I really gotta say, if my church would open the doors at the building, I would be HAPPY to spend one, two, maybe three nights a week all winter long as chaperone/security guard/shepherd. I am sure we could put together a full time and thus share the load. And that sacrifice would be far far less than opening my own home to strangers, while fulfilling the need and obeying Scripture all at the same time!

    Just my thoughts. But your are right. We gotta address that denial/comfort zone thingy first.

    Again, thank YOU so much for participating.

    Liked by 1 person

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