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.
*yes, this is a nod to Alanis Morissette