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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Who is my neighbor?

A challenge to the status quo.

A crowd was gathered, and Jesus was teaching. In an effort to find fault with Jesus’ doctrine, a lawyer stood up to ask a question. “Teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:26).

This is a good question. Many have pondered the answer. Jesus replies to the expert in the law by requesting his answer. Luke 10:27 says, “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” This was a good answer to a good question.

The lawyer’s summation of the law was correct; loving one’s neighbor is a natural outgrowth of loving God, so these two commandments go hand-in-hand. Perhaps, he believed he measured up well, especially with loving God. From his viewpoint, the law expert did okay in loving his neighbor, so the conversation continued with another question.

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). There it is, the issue of accountability. The lawyer needed to justify his actions, so he needed a definition to know who he was accountable to love.

Perhaps we can relate; Scripture tells us to love our neighbor, but what exactly is meant by that decree? Neighbor is defined as a near person or place, so we automatically assign the title to individuals living next door, across the street, or in the adjoining apartment. We wonder if more is meant by neighbor than those with whom we have close contact.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary points out the expert in the law had a narrow view of neighbors to mean “fellow Jews and proselytes.” Jesus redefines the term, and in doing so, challenges the lawyer’s understanding of neighbors, and ours too.

Jesus Redefines Neighbors

Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man was traveling and was attacked by robbers, who left the man to die. Two fellow Jews passed by and ignored the man in need, but a Samaritan came upon the scene and came to the man’s rescue. The Samaritan tended to the man’s wounds, and made sure he had what was needed to heal.

The parable forces the conclusion the Samaritan was truly the man’s neighbor. By definition, the two Jews who passed by should have acted neighborly, and the Samaritan should have passed by. The one least likely to be the neighbor acted in love.

Jesus defined neighbor as anyone with whom we come in contact, and this revolutionized the lawyer’s thinking. Samaritan’s were despised by Jews, so for the lawyer to see this man as a neighbor was hard. But a neighbor is anyone with whom we interact.

You and I interact with a variety of people. They come from all walks of life, and may not share our same political views. Yet, Jesus gives us a challenge to love our neighbor as ourselves. How well do we measure up? Do we intentionally show our neighbors love?

Promises, Promises

Can we trust the Bible?

A preacher was visiting a couple parishioners, and the trio was reading the Bible. They came to Matthew 28:20 where Jesus says, “Surely, I will be with you to the very end of the age.”

The preacher asked, “Isn’t that a wonderful promise?”

“It’s not a promise. It’s a fact,” one of the parishioners replied.

Promises are made and broken in life. There are many reasons promises are broken; however, the Bible offers many promises which we can accept as fact. Being perfect, God always keeps his word.

Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.”

Looking through history, we find God keeping his word.

The people of Israel were promised land, and the Lord provided the land he promised. Generations passed from the time the promise was made until it was fulfilled, but God kept his word.

Joshua 21:43-45 states, “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession and settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled. Everything he had spoken came true.”

We turn the pages of history to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. The angel promised the shepherds they would find a certain arrangement in the stable. They would find Mary, Joseph, and the baby, lying in a manger.

Luke 2:20 records, “The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”

God keeps his promises.

History proves God is faithful. The Lord keeps his promises. You and I can rest assured the promises made in the Bible will be fulfilled.

Christians are promised God will be with us in this life, and we will spend the next life in Heaven. And, we know the Lord keeps his word.

Acting

Spend time dwelling on the promises made by the Lord. Find hope and confidence in these promises.

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What is grace?

What is grace? Ask 20 people this question, and you will receive multiple answers.

Completely understanding God’s grace is difficult for us, so you and I may have doubts concerning the reality of God’s forgiveness. Here are 6 workable definitions of God’s grace, a picture of his grace, and how grace plays into our lives.

Here are 6 practical definitions of God’s grace.

1. God’s unmerited favor.

We do nothing to earn grace. God gives it to those who ask.

2. Unconditional Forgiveness.

In this way, grace is inclusive. God invites us to come as we are; grace meets us at our place and helps us get to a better place.

3. God’s one-way love to us.

A person may not love the Lord right now, but the Lord loves him or her. It is out of his love the invitation to grace is extended.

4. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person.

You and I are invited to come as we are. Our lives do not have to be perfect before grace comes into play. The Lord meets us where we are and takes us to a better place. Whether we do or do not deserve grace is not a question the Lord asks. He invites us all.

5. Grace sets us free.

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free.”

Grace can help us live a more fulfilling life.

6. Grace is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “God saved you by his grace when you believed, and you can not take credit for this. It is a gift from God.”

Here is a picture of grace.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a son wanting his father’s money. The son goes to his father and asks for his share of the inheritance. In the context of Jesus’ story, inheritance was usually given upon a parent’s death. So, the son is basically saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead. Give me your money.”

The father agrees and gives the young man his portion of the estate. The young man leaves home, plays hard in life for a time, and looses all his money. Fast forward a little, and we find the young man caring for pigs with nothing to eat.

Hungry and watching the pigs eat, the young man decides to try going home. He feels his father will at least let him be a servant. He does not believe being a son again is an option after the way he has acted. He heads for home, and the father’s response is a true picture of grace.

The father sees his son coming down the road, so he runs to meet and embrace him. Picture the scene Jesus paints. The smelly, dirty son who had been tending to the hogs being embraced by his father, who a short time earlier received a death wish. Not only did the father embrace the young man, he throws a celebration because his son is home.

This is grace. Unmerited, undeserving, unconditional forgiveness and love.

Here is how grace plays into our lives.

The same way the father ran to meet the son, The Lord runs to meet us. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, we can always go back home.

Acting

What has grace done for you? Take a moment to thank the Lord.

What can grace do for you? Go back home.

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Three red heart-shaped balloons

Love is Hard

Did the Bible have to say this?

We watch the news, read the newspapers, and follow social media, and every day we are frustrated at all the hatred in the world. If everyone would just get along, how much better would the world be?

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you; pray for those who hurt you,” Jesus says in Luke 6:27-28.

I like this statement. Don’t you?

I like this statement until I realize Jesus is not just talking to everyone else. He is talking to me also. Love your enemies. Did God really have to put that in the Bible?

God put this statement in the Bible, so the answer is yes, it must be in there.

Stop and think for a moment. How much better would the world be if everyone had sacrificial love for one another? Bullies would not exist. Teamwork would increase in the workplace; backstabbing would stop. Groups with opposing views would compromise rather than sitting in their corners hating each other. The landscape would change drastically.

How to love your enemy?

Here’s how the Bible suggests living out this statement.

Luke 6:31 says, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

This is the Golden Rule. If we do not want others to be rude to us, why are we rude to them. If we dislike bullying, why do we bully others. We don’t like backstabbers in our office, so why do we participate? We should treat others the way we desire to be treated.

Acting

How well do you live out the Golden Rule? If you are like me, there’s room for improvement, so set a goal to take a small step toward improvement each day. For example, set your daily goal not to be rude to a cashier no matter how you are treated in line.

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two men having a conversation sitting at a table

Small ButPotent

Is my influence large enough? Do I reach enough people to really make a difference? These are questions that come to mind as we struggle in our search for significance. This may be especially true in an era of Facebook and Instagram influencers with millions of followers. You look at their accounts and they have millions of followers, but your account does not. I look at their pictures and they have thousands of likes, but my pictures do not. So, we begin to doubt the importance of our influence.

We begin to wonder if we even matter, and ask, “Why do we even bother?” The Bible tells us we do matter. You and I may not be the Billy Graham of our era, but our influence is impactful.

A few will reach millions of people, some will reach thousands of people, but most of us will only reach a few people. Perhaps just one person, but our influence is still meaningful.

A Premium on One

The Bible places a high premium on reaching one person. Glimpse through Luke 15 and we see a high premium placed on reaching one person.

Seeking Out One

Jesus uses 3 parables in Luke 15 to help us understand the importance of reaching one person

A Lost Sheep

A shepherd had 100 sheep and 1 went missing. The shepherd leaves 99 of the sheep to seek out the one who is in danger. He celebrates when he finds the 1 sheep. If the sheep wasn’t important, he would have left it to stay with the other 99.

A Lost Coin

A widow loses a coin in her home, so she moves everything out and sweeps the house until she finds the coin. When she finds the coin, she celebrates. If the coin was not valuable, she would have not risked moving her possessions into the elements of the outdoors to find the coin.

A Lost Son

A father believes his son is never going to be back in his life, but when the boy returns, the father celebrates. He has a grand celebration because his son has come home. If his son was not significant, he would have not celebrated.

Rejoicing Over One

Luke 15 tells us each time one is found there is rejoicing.

  • Verse 7: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
  • Verse 10: “In the same way I tell you there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
  • Verse 32: “But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.”

Reaching just one person is important. Reaching one individual is significant. A small influence is still potent.

A Rock in a Lake

The significance of our influence is like throwing a rock in a lake. The rock hits the water sending out a wave. The first wave sends out a second wave. The second wave sends out a third wave and so on. Each circular wave grows. Each wave is larger than the previous. The wave action starts when the rock hits the water. Our influence is the rock starting the wave affect.

Jesus started with 12.

The Bible reminds us Jesus did not start with millions of followers. He started with only 12. His influence launched from there. The original 12 may have each only reached 12 people and so on. It did not take long until Jesus’ influence was huge.

Most of us will reach a few people and our influence will go out from there. We have a significant place in the Lord’s plan. Reaching a few is as important to the Lord as reaching millions. The Lord has put you and I in a place which matters to him. Our influence has significance.

Acting

With whom do you have an influence? Ask the Lord to help you seize opportunities you have to influence the people around you.

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woman in a praying pose

Unashamed & Persistent

The preacher thought she was drunk and scolded her for showing up at church under the influence of wine. Hannah quickly explained she wasn’t drunk. She was just that involved in her prayer. She said she was pouring her heart out to the Lord.

You and I have wants and needs. We struggle with the challenges of life. How well do we pray about those needs, wants, and challenges? Embarrassment or fear may stop us from praying, but the Bible reminds us there is no need to be embarrassed or afraid when talking with our Heavenly Father. We can be unashamed and persistent.

An Illustration

Talking about prayer, Jesus tells the story of a man who had an unexpected guest in the middle of the night. He runs to his refrigerator and its empty. He checks the pantry and only finds dust on a shelf. He has no food to offer his guest, so he runs to the neighbor’s house.

He wakes the neighbor at midnight by banging on the door. “Give me some food,” he says. “I’ve had an unexpected guest and have nothing to offer.” The man inside yells back, “Go away!”

But he keeps banging and banging until the man gets up and gives him what he needs for his guest.

Be Unashamed and Persistent

Jesus says in Luke 11:8, “But I tell you this, though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.”

You and I can be unashamed and persistent in our prayers.

Unashamed

The foodless man in Jesus’ story is unashamed to announce his problem. He has no shame in telling his neighbor what he needs. Nothing is hidden. The man lays everything before his neighbor in a shameless way.

Do you approach prayer in a shameless way? Do you lay everything before the Lord?

This can be hard at times. When we do something good, we have no problem talking with the Lord about it, but when we make mistakes, we’d rather not discuss those with our dad.

Talking about imperfections is hard. No one wants to admit he was a jerk. No one wants to admit she was cranky, but the Lord already knows. He knows you and I are not perfect, and he wants to help us grow.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God. We have not yet been shown what we will be in the future, but we know that when Christ comes again, we will be like him,” 1 John 3:2 reminds us.

Nothing is hidden from the Lord. Since he knows everything, you and I have nothing to hide. We can be unashamed in prayer. We can be honest with our feelings and ask the Lord to help us in every situation. Prayer is a safe place. Our Heavenly Dad desires to hear from us and will not be upset if we are unashamed in our conversation.

Persistent

The foodless man did not accept no as an answer. His neighbor told him to go away, but he continued to knock until the man answered his request. His persistence paid off. He received food for his guest.

“Keep praying,” Jesus encourages.

“So, I tell you continue to ask, and God will give to you. Continue to search and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will open for you. Yes, whoever continues to ask will receive. Whoever continues to look will find, and whoever continues to knock will have the door opened for them,” encourages Luke 11:9-10.

Don’t give up. Our Dad answers prayer in his timing.

Hannah was unashamed and persistent.

Hannah was so emotionally involved in her prayer she was accused of being drunk. 1 Samuel 1 records Hannah having a rough time in life. She was not afraid to talk with the Lord about her problem. She became so physically involved in her prayer it was thought she was under the influence. When questioned, Hannah explained, “I’m pouring my heart out before the Lord.”

Hannah was shameless and persistent in her prayer. How well do we pour our hearts out before the Lord? We do not have to be embarrassed or fearful before our dad in Heaven.

Our intimate conversations with him can be private. In fact, Jesus encourages us to pray in the closet. Pouring our hearts out before God can be a freeing, but vulnerable, experience, so we can do it in a private setting.

Acting

Are you angry? Tell the Lord.

Are you struggling? Tell the Lord.

Are you embarrassed by something in your life? Tell the Lord.

Anything else? Shamelessly tell the Lord. Persist in prayer.

The lyrics of an old hymn say, “What a friend we have in Jesus. What a privilege to carry everything to him in prayer.”

Want an Additional Resource?

Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado is a great resource on prayer.