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What’s So “Good” about the “Samaritan”?


The virtue of the Good Samaritan inspires humanitarian efforts throughout the world. Leaders in disaster response, healthcare, search-and-rescue, and hunger relief all invoke this model of action and compassion. Who was the Samaritan and what was so good about this person? Christ described the account in Luke 10:25-37. Please read entirely:


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 is 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 have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”


But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is 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 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. 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 coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will 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 told him, “Go and do likewise.”


Most striking about this account is the other mindedness of the Samaritan. Was he concerned about his personal schedule? No, he paused his journey. Was he focused on his financial status? No, he freely gave out of his resources. Where his actions motivated by desire for fame? No, Samaritans were despised foreigners and he had no clue Christ would reference him.


In concluding, Christ urged, “Go and do likewise.” Many of our colleagues in the caring professionals today follow this other mindedness model of kindness toward those who are disadvantaged, making service for and empowerment of forgotten people an intentional career commitment. Countless lives are preserved through their ongoing devotion, whether in their home communities or in distant locales.


But the meaning of the Good Samaritan is even deeper. Remember the context of the account? “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Christ replied to love God and love one another. The imperative of other mindedness is closely tied to our spiritual health. The goodness of the Samaritan’s actions were an expression of the condition of his heart. Today, as we consider those in need, what does our response say about the condition of our hearts?


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