30 Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. 31 Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 32 Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. 33 A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. 34 The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ 36 What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
37 Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
There was a famous experiment done by my alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary, back in the 70’s that revealed a not-so-flattering response by students when faced with a scenario similar to today’s text. In the experiment, a group of students were asked to preach about the Good Samaritan. They were in one building to prepare and had to walk to another building to preach in front of a panel. 1/3 of the students were told they were late to leave, 1/3 were told they were to go immediately, and the last 1/3 were told that they might as well head over early. Along their walk to the second building, they passed someone (an actor) in distress. The level of urgency that each student was presented with greatly impacted whether or not they helped the person, but even amongst the last group that was told they were early, only 63% of them actually helped the person.
This is to say that there is a big difference between knowing what’s right and doing what’s right. I love the story of the Good Samaritan. I love how I am challenged as a Christian by the fact that it is not the religious leader who does what’s right. I love how the Samaritan not only gets the man to safety but promises to return to follow up on his status. I especially love how Jesus asked the legal expert who the true neighbor was, and when the legal expert answered correctly, Jesus then didn’t just say “correct!” but told him to act on his answer. I find this to be key to the whole story, it is important to learn and grow and know what the right thing to do is, but it means nothing if we then don’t do the right thing.
By Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
What is something that you know, but that you struggle to act on? Perhaps it is a conviction about a justice issue that you struggle to speak out on, or maybe it’s finally apologizing to someone. What in your life is easier said than done?
Prayer: Merciful God, your Word is so precious to us. We pray today that we not only hear it, but be it. We lift up all those who are reading this at home or at work or outside, that it might be a reminder that we are connected to one another and you, Lord. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.