Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

7 Signs of a Good Samaritan

WE ALL KNOW that the Good Samaritan is the model of godly neighborliness. But have you ever stopped to reflect on what exactly he did that is worth keeping in mind, especially as we come across people in need on the sides of our daily roads? I see seven things in the story Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37.

As a good neighbor, the Good Samaritan:

Had a compassionate heart. He didn’t just see a need and make note of it; he responded. Compassion is like pity with feet on it; it takes us somewhere. Remember, we are “moved with compassion.” The Good Samaritan didn’t stop to evaluate the situation and consider whether the man “deserved” his help. He saw a man in need and stepped closer—unlike the priest and the Levite. Both of them had seen the need and stepped away to the other side of the road. Actually, the Good Samaritan’s response is the gospel in a nutshell: God saw broken and wounded humanity, robbed of something, and stepped in to help.

It’s worth noting that the robbery victim did not have a sign saying, “Robbed. Please help.” The Good Samaritan initiated the interaction. How might our days go if, each morning, we ask God for His heart and eyes of compassion for those we pass on our way? No, they may not be lying there literally bleeding, but certainly, many people we encounter have been bruised, hurt and robbed of something.

Took a risk. This whole thing could have been a ruse; the “victim” may have been part of a gang luring the unsuspecting would-be helper into an ambush. The Good Samaritan put someone else’s apparent need above his safety and well-being.

Inconvenienced himself. This member of a scorned community set aside his agenda. First, of course, he stopped and delayed his journey. Then he put the wounded man on his own animal and presumably walked alongside.

Got his hands dirty. Literally. He got in the muck and the blood and bathed and bandaged the man’s wounds. Again, isn’t this the gospel in microcosm—a reminder of how, in Jesus, God came close to wounded humanity?

Paid a price. The Good Samaritan dug into his own pocket to help the injured man, giving the innkeeper the equivalent of two days’ pay for the average worker of the time. This was not just a spare dollar thrown into a cup.

Showed mercy. This was how the lawyer who had prompted Jesus’s story summed up the Good Samaritan’s actions and nature (v. 37). In other words, he acted in a way the victim did not “deserve.”

Only did so much. Yes, the Good Samaritan went out of his way to help, but only so far. He didn’t call ahead and cancel the rest of his appointments in Jericho so he could stay and tend to the injured man. He did what he could and moved on.

What I take from all this is that we don’t have to solve all the problems. We should just be willing to do what we can, with what we have, when we can, for who we can, and then leave the rest to God. That’s a good neighbor.

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