The Good Samaritan
“Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds to the lawyer’s
question with a story about a man traveling the Jericho road
who was robbed, stripped naked, beaten, and left for dead. In
his helplessness he was passed by twice — first by a priest and
then a Levite — who walk all the way to the other side of the
road to avoid the man.
The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was widely
known to be dangerous. Traveling along it was potentially
hazardous, and halting one’s journey for any length of time
courted serious risk. The priest and Levite may have weighed
this risk in their minds and decided that the increased threat
to their safety wasn’t worth it. It’s easy for me to shake my
finger at them both. Shame on you, priest and Levite! But I
can’t shake my finger long before I feel the pangs of hypocrisy.
I too am guilty of their choice. I have done what I could to
avoid someone in need of help, and I can imagine what the
priest and Levite might have thought: I have somewhere to be
or Someone else will offer help or I do plenty for other people.
I do not know what grief they felt — if any — at having left the
man for dead. What I do know is that neither the priest nor
the Levite did anything; it was a Samaritan who took action.
By all accounts, the priest and the Levite were the ones I
would have expected to help the man. I have to wrestle with
the fact that it was a Samaritan — an outsider and foreigner —
who bandaged the man’s wounds, put him on the Samaritan’s
own donkey, and found him a place to stay.
I generally think I am a neighbor to someone when I bake
them a pie or water their plants while they are out of town,
and someone is a neighbor to me when they bake me a pie
and water my plants. Of course these are good and decent
things to do for each other. But if I pay careful attention to the
parable, I come away from it uncomfortable about what it
asks of me. Being a neighbor is about more than baking a pie
or watering plants. These are things I would do for people I