Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he said, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'What is written in the law? What do you read there?' He answered, 'You shall 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 your neighbour as yourself.' And he said to him, 'You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.' But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbour?' Jesus replied, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend." Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?' He said, 'The one who showed him mercy.' Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise.'
Whether the lawyer acted in good or bad faith when he questioned Jesus need not trouble us now. We can be thankful that his question brought forth this beautiful parable which has a lesson for us today as fresh as it had for all those who heard it from the lips of Jesus.
The roads of life, no matter where we live, have neighbours lying injured by the wayside. They are waiting and hoping that some fellow people will come to give them a helping hand. We can shut our eyes or turn away, as the priest and Levite did. No doubt, these two men had urgent business or they had troubles enough of their own. Perhaps they had helped a few other similar cases already that day. Jesus does not seem to excuse them on any of these scores. Even the lawyer did not find any justifying excuse for them. They behaved badly. They showed that they had no interest in their neighbour when he was in need, they did not keep the command that God had given them through Moses.
Judged in the light of that parable, are my dealings with my neighbour such as would earn the praise or the condemnation of our Lord? Would he number me with the priest and Levite, or with the Samaritan? If I give a helping hand to the neighbours whom I see in corporal or spiritual need, as often as I possibly can, he will number me among the good Samaritans. If, instead, I turn a blind eye and busy myself with my own affairs, I am classing myself with the condemned priest and Levite.
I have excuses. We all have. They sound plausible to ourselves. We have more than enough to do to look after our own affairs, material and spiritual. So too had the priest and Levite. We have had to go through similar hardship and nobody gave us a helping hand. Two wrongs don’t make a right. These people in corporal or spiritual need brought this on themselves. Let them get themselves out of their difficulties now.
Our excuses for not helping our neighbour may sound plausible to us now. But will we dare repeat them on the judgment day? When describing the judgment scene, our Lord told certain people that they were being excluded from heaven because they refused to help him when he was in need.
Today, with so much social provision for the less fortunate in most countries, we are not called on so often to exercise the corporal works of mercy. We are living in a world which is growing daily further and further away from God. We find people in every walk of life whose one purpose is to get all they can out of their few short years here on earth. They completely ignore or forget that their real purpose in life is to get to heaven.
Of course, we cannot go out and preach the truths of faith to these people on every street corner. Even if we did they would listen to us. There are many other more effective ways of getting a neighbour to see his mistakes, if we but take the trouble. Start by taking an interest in your neighbour, in his work, his family, his reactions. Show by your way of living and by your outlook on life that God is never far from your thoughts. Show that your concern is more with the future life than with the present one.
Where there is true love of God, there will be true love of neighbour. There must be. That love will find a way into the heart of the neighbour. Resolve, today, to be a Good Samaritan, especially towards those who are injured spiritually and who will not reach heaven unless you give them a helping hand. Amen.