Today, the "Good Samaritan" term is used to describe someone who comes to the aid of others out of a gesture of kindness. It derives from the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a story Christians are very familiar with.
For over a century, sermons based on this story have been popular. It’s often interpreted in many different ways — from lessons about personal safety to lessons about how to treat others.
Attempts to interpret the parable for the times and concerns of a changing audience are no doubt an attempt to bring it to life in light of the uncertainty in today’s day and age.
However, what do we have to do with a story that's been told for 1,000 years?
Jesus used the parable to teach us lessons both about life and about God. There are many valuable lessons in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
In this article, we'll discuss the Good Samaritan parable and its meanings.
First off, what is a parable?
Parables teach spiritual or moral lessons in a simple and straightforward manner. Jesus often used parables in the Gospels to explain a lesson to His followers, such as the story of the Prodigal son.
One great lesson Jesus taught through a parable was the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37 in the New Testament.
“On one occasion, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
“‘What's written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
“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.’
“‘You've answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who's my neighbor?’
“In reply, Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. A Jewish priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the injured 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 of the road. But a Samaritan as he traveled came where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.
“‘Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I'll reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 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 answers, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
During His discussion of the way to eternal life, Jesus was questioned about the definition of neighbor.
Originally, the only commandments that people were told to follow were those of the Old Testament in Leviticus 19.
In addition to His statement that one should love God and one's neighbor as oneself, Jesus used the parable to illustrate what it means to be a good neighbor in a surprising way.
Nowadays, Samaritans are known as people who do good deeds for others.
But in Hebrew, a Samaritan was a member of a people inhabiting Samaria. At the time, Samaritans and Jews didn’t associate with one another. Samaritans were practically outcasts.
The Jewish man in the parable was stripped, beaten, robbed, and left half-dead on the street. He was ignored by a passing priest and Levite, both of whom should have helped attend to the man’s wounds.
Only the Samaritan was kind enough to stop and help the wounded man, thus making him a true neighbor, according to Jesus’ greatest commandments.
That day, the Samaritan didn't reach his intended destination. A moment after seeing the naked, beaten, and helpless man along the roadside, his plans were immediately altered without a second thought.
Moreover, he not only provided first aid to the stranger, but he also took him to an inn and made sure he was comfortable.
Jesus challenges his followers in this story to realize that no one is an outsider. Our purpose in life is to help each other. If we don't dispel the illusion that prevents us from seeing this, we won’t survive as a people.
In this story, the message is that if we want to be good neighbors, we need to be more like the Samaritan.
The parable of the Good Samaritan drives home the importance of Bible study.
Even though we may quote scriptures and proclaim ideals of love and God without getting involved in other people's lives, those quotes and proclamations don’t mean much.
The Samaritan could have said to himself, “I give regularly to my church” and gone on his way. But even though he was considered a “despised Samaritan,” he rose above such shallowness to care for a fellow human being.
Throughout history, groups of people have been at odds with one another, distrusted, and hated. Even in today's society, prejudice and bias still exist.
Despite the passage of time, the message of the Good Samaritan is still relevant today.
Whether or not the person looks like us, speaks our language, or believes in our God, we're called to help. Even when hurt or snubbed, we must help. As Christians, we're called to aid those who are in need.
Even those who heard Jesus speak those words had a tough time with this challenge. But by channeling the Samaritan's attitude of helping, we'll truly have learned Christ's lesson.
Jesus commands us to love and treat those whom the world says to hate with compassion. Furthermore, we may all learn from the parables of Jesus' life as well.
For Christ our Savior always showed mercy to a wounded man or woman regardless of whether it was physical or mental.
Our lives are often filled with a variety of tasks and responsibilities, which makes helping others an inconvenience sometimes.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, he may have been inconvenienced, but he didn't let it deter him from helping the hurt man. At that moment, he didn't care about his own life. He just took the necessary steps to make sure the man got what he needed.
It’s worthless to have a good intention if it's never carried out. It’s the actions we take in the form of giving aid and support to those in need that truly matter to Jesus and the Heavenly Father.