5 Ways to be Today’s Good Samaritan

Neighbors come from surprising places.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan encourages us to be neighbors with anyone in need who is made in God’s image.

So, you and I are accountable to love our neighbor – anyone made in the image of God. Here are five ways you and I can be Good Samaritans today.

1. We should be aware of our neighbor.

Like the Samaritan, we should pay attention to those we pass. We should be aware of their needs. This requires attentiveness and compassion. Awareness helps you and I identify a neighbor’s needs and recognize how we can provide assistance.

2. We should be willing to come to our neighbors.

There were three travelers who came upon the injured man in Jesus’ parable, but only one was willing to take the risk to come to the man. We have many neighbors with needs, and approaching them can be risky. We risk our neighbor slapping our extended hand with no interest in our help. We risk driving our neighbor away. We also risk being hurt by our neighbor.

Approaching our neighbor may place us in a vulnerable place and may result in heartbreak. This is a risk Christians should be willing to take. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you even though it seems that the more I love you the less you love me” (2 Corinthians 12:15). Jesus was willing to be hurt to help us. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own, yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Coming to our neighbor is a risky move, but the profit of being able to help him or her is great.

3. We should be willing to serve our neighbor.

We should be open to opportunities to serve. This may be checking on a neighbor, seeing if we can pick up something at the store, helping them find transportation to an appointment, or just listening to identify their needs. We should strive to serve our neighbors in the same way Jesus served those around him.

4. We should invest generously in our neighbors.

The Samaritan invested in the man’s recovery. The IVP New Testament Commentary calculates his investment to equal three and a half weeks of time for the injured man to recover. This would have been approximately two days’ wages. The Samaritan acted generously toward the man’s needs.

Our generosity can go a long way in meeting our neighbors’ needs. When we are in a position to be generous, the Bible encourages us to give freely.

5. We should follow up with our neighbors.

Meeting an immediate need and walking away may be helpful, but it is not the best approach. The Samaritan met the man’s initial needs, but we can also assume he followed up to ensure the man healed and the innkeeper was fully compensated. We too should follow up with our neighbors in an effort to fully meet their needs. This helps show we truly care for them.

We live in a society filled with needs, and as Good Samaritans, we should not pass by on the other side; rather, we should work to help our neighbors. After all, we are the hands and feet of Christ, and it is through our actions his grace and mercy shine brightly in a crooked and depraved generation.

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Which character are you?

3 Travelers, 1 Neighbor

Jesus uses a parable to illustrate a true neighbor. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus places us on a 17-mile stretch of road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Descending sharply toward the Jordan River just north of the Dead sea, this especially dangerous patch of road curved through rugged, rocky terrain. It made an excellent hiding place for thieves. The IVP New Testament Commentary compares this stretch of road to the inner city late at night, and Josephus recorded travelers would carry weapons to protect themselves in this region.

Jesus says a man was traveling this road and fell into the hands of robbers, who left him “half dead.” Luke 10:31-32 goes on, “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.” These three men were all Jews, so according to the Lawyer’s definition, the priest and Levite should have acted as a neighbor to the man lying on the road.

However, they acted contrarily, passing by on the other side. This may have been to keep themselves ceremonially clean. Culture dictated one’s shadow could not even come in contact with a dead body, or one would become ritually unclean. They may have ignored the man out of concern for personal safety. What if the robbers were still around? They may have chosen not to check, thinking there was nothing they could do for the man. In short, the priest and Levite made excuses so they did not have to get involved in the man’s affairs.

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” This Samaritan acted mercifully toward the man lying on the road. He bandaged the man’s wounds, served the man by placing him on his donkey, and made sure the man was cared for until he healed.

A Samaritan is the last person the lawyer would have considered a neighbor. In fact, Jesus may have stunned his listeners with this character. Much hostility existed between the Jews and Samaritans. John 4:9 says the hostility was so great the two groups would not even share dishes. Scholars are not confident when the hostility began.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary points out, “The history of the Samaritans is uncertain. Many hold that they were a mixed race since the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. The king of Assyria deported the leaders of Israel, among them the religious teachers, and replaced them with foreigners. From that time on, the inhabitants of the northern kingdom received no further prophetic instruction, nor did they recognize God’s revelation to the southern kingdom. The Samaritans were a fringe segment of the Jewish world for which Jesus and Luke had a concern.”

No matter the root of the hostility, the fact this Samaritan acted as a neighbor would have turned the stomach of the lawyer. He had a preconceived notion that he could not be a neighbor to a Samaritan. The expert in the law would not even say the word “Samaritan.”

Jesus continued by asking, “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.”

Jesus’ definition of neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact. Geographic location, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and culture are mute points in determining a neighbor.

The IVP New Testament Commentary remarks, “Jesus point is simply be a neighbor. Do not rule out certain people as neighbors and his parable makes the point emphatically by providing a model from a group the lawyer had probably excluded as possible neighbors. To love God means to show mercy to those in need. An authentic life is found in serving God and caring for others. This is a central tenet of discipleship. Here human beings fulfill their creative role, to love God and be a neighbor to others by meeting their needs. Neighbors are not determined by race, creed, or gender. Neighbors consist of anyone in need made in the image of God.”

Which character in Jesus’ parable best represents you? Are you the neighbor who passes by or the Samaritan?

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