This past weekend I entered out Junior High Bible class to teach them a lesson from Luke 10:25-37: The Parable of the Good Samaritan. As I began the lesson I asked the class this question, “Have you ever taken the time to help a stranger in distress?” One by one several of the kids began to share their personal experience when one of the teens began to share his experience from the first day of school. He was in the school cafeteria getting ready to go sit down with some friends when he noticed a student sitting at a table all alone. Instead of sitting with his friends, he made the decision to go and eat lunch with the stranger. He walked us and asked, “Can I sit here with you?” and was given permission. They introduced themselves and began a conversation. I inquired further as to his relationship today and he expressed that they were now good friends.
Standing before the class I silently thanked the Lord for this young man’s heart of gold. He not only knew the difference that one person could make on another but was living it. I have no idea if I was able to make much of an impact on that class that Sunday morning but I can tell you that Daniel Saathoff made a huge difference in my life that day.
After meditating on Luke 10:25-37, I have come to appreciate the practical application Jesus shares with us in regards to becoming more service-oriented. In this passage we read about a lawyer who comes to Jesus. At first, he seems to have a genuine interest in finding out what it takes to gain eternal life. But as the conversation with Jesus continues, it becomes pretty obvious that this lawyer isn’t as interested in doing what it takes to gain eternal life as he is trying to find a way around his responsibilities.
I came across an article written by Pat Damiani which enlightened me on five requirements for serving other people. I give him full credit for the article below and pray it is a blessing to you as it was to me.
Five Requirements for Serving Others:
Consciousness – The first step in serving the needs of others is that we need to develop an awareness of the needs of those around us. Interestingly, in this parable, all three men – the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan – were aware of the man alongside of the road. In each case, the passage is quite clear that all three men saw the injured man alongside of the road.
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a narrow, windy road that descended about 3500 feet over 17 miles. If you look at the picture of this area on the screen, it’s easy to see why it was frequented by robbers who could find many places to hide. So you can imagine that as each of these three men traveled the road, they were very aware of their surroundings and there was no way they were going to miss a beaten, injured man alongside of the road.
It’s not always quite so easy for us to see the needs of people around us, though. If we really want to become the kind of people who minister to the needs of other people, we have to develop a consciousness or awareness of those around us who have needs.
Unfortunately, in this story, however, only one of the three men followed up once they became aware of the need. Both the priest and the Levite saw the man in great need, but they failed to do anything about it. I’ve often wondered why these religious leaders didn’t stop to help. Maybe they were on their way to the temple and they were afraid they would be defiled by the man’s blood. Maybe, they were afraid that if they stopped to help, they might suffer the same fate and be robbed and beaten themselves. Maybe they were late for the worship service and figured their duties there were more important than meeting the need right in front of them. Maybe they figured it was someone else’s duty to tend to the man.
But before we’re quick to condemn those men, we need to realize that we often fail to get involved in the lives of others for very similar reasons. So, while being conscious of the people around us and their needs is a great first step, it’s not enough by itself. We also have to have…
Compassion – (Luke 10:33) “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.”
Unlike the priest and the Levite, the Samaritan had compassion on the injured man. I’m sure that the Samaritan knew this was a Jewish man and he was certainly aware of the fact that the Jews and Samaritans despised each other. That animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans is also obvious in the account of the woman at the well in John 4. But this Samaritan man was willing to look beyond all that and to merely see another human being who had a great need and he had compassion.
Compassion is all about seeing someone else with a need and then being willing to do whatever we can to help the person with his or her need – not because the other person deserves it, but because God has put us in a position to help with those needs. He has put us into the life of another and he has provided us with resources that we can use to meet those needs. True compassion is not just an emotional feeling; it’s an act of the will. It’s a decision on my part to serve the needs of another regardless of how I feel about that person.
I think that’s where the lawyer who came to Jesus missed the boat. He was only willing to be a neighbor to those people that he liked, those that were more like him. But as we talked about last week, anybody can love the people we like. The measure of love is whether or not we love the unlovable.
But even if the Samaritan would have been conscious of the needs of this man and he had compassion, but didn’t do anything else, that still wouldn’t have been enough. He also had to have…
Contact – (Luke 10:34) “He went to him…” Here’s where the process breaks down for a lot of us. We see a need and we even have compassion for the other person. But, we’re not willing to take the next step. Because the next step is that I actually have to have contact with the other person. And sometimes that’s not real comfortable.
If the Samaritan was going to help this poor man, he had to get involved, he had to make contact. And that meant he was going to get dirty and bloody. It meant that he was exposing himself to the risk of getting robbed himself and to the risk of disease from this stranger. And it meant that he would have to associate with someone he despised and with someone who despised him.
I went back and read several of the accounts of Jesus healing various people. And I was amazed at how many of those accounts include what I would call the “Jesus touch”. Although he certainly had the power to heal without making contact with these people, it’s interesting that Jesus chose to reach and touch them as part of the healing process:
• A man with leprosy
• Peter’s mother-in-law who had a fever
• Two blind men
• A man who was deaf and dumb
• The coffin of a dead young man
• The servant of the high priest
That doesn’t even include all the people who were healed just because they reached out and touched Jesus or his garments. The list of people that Jesus touched reads like a “who’s who” of all the people anyone in their right mind would avoid making contact with – many of them were ill with contagious diseases, most were the outcasts of society, and one was the servant of a man who was going to call for the execution of Jesus in just a few hours. But Jesus was willing to take the risk of making contact with all these people so that he could meet their needs.
Would we be willing to make contact, to get involved in their lives in order to serve the needs of others? If you’re at all like me, here’s the weak link in the process of serving the needs of others. In those cases when I do see a need and when I have compassion on the other person, I often choose to just bypass this step. I figure someone else will help them out. Or sometimes, maybe I’ll ease my conscience a little by just giving the person some money, or even better, give someone else the money so that they can get involved in the person’s life on my behalf.
Maybe that’s what the priest and the Levite did. Maybe they had given their offering there at the synagogue and they figured that when they got back they would send a representative of their benevolence ministry back to help the injured man.
Sometimes, maybe that is all we can do, but there is no substitute for the human touch that accompanies our contact and involvement in the lives of others.
Care – (Luke 10:34) “…and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.”
The Samaritan quickly assessed the situation and then he immediately began to care for the needs of the injured man. He saw that the man was badly injured, so he tended to his wounds and then he transported the man to an inn where he could receive further care.
If I’m going to care for the needs of others, then the first thing I have to do is to determine the real needs of the other person. Sometimes, like in this case, the needs are obvious. That’s usually true when it comes to the physical needs of others. If someone is hurt or hungry, or needs clothing, we can usually determine those needs pretty easily. But sometimes, when the needs are more emotional or spiritual, they are not quite as easy to see. That’s where we have to go back to that very first step and work ant being conscious and aware of the needs of others. That’s another reason the whole idea of contact and involvement is so important. The more time we spend with other people, the greater the likelihood that we’ll be able to discover their deepest needs.
Then, once we determine what the needs are, we have to use whatever resources we have at our disposal to meet those needs. All the good intentions in the world are no substitute for taking an active role in meeting the needs of others.
When God brings us into the lives of others and gives us the resources to meet needs in their lives and we fail to care for those people, we not only rob the other person of the help God intended for us to provide, but we also rob ourselves of the blessings that come from serving others. No wonder James says that is a sin.
When I’m conscious of the needs of others, when I have compassion, when I’m willing to make contact and care for their needs, I will always incur a…
Cost – (Luke 10:35) “The next day he took out two silver 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.”
When the Samaritan man stopped to help this stranger, he incurred several costs. It cost him his time, something that the priest and the Levite apparently weren’t willing to give. It cost him a great deal of effort. And it cost him some of his resources. He took his wine and oil and used them to treat the wounds. And when he got to the inn, he provided the financial resources to make sure the man would get the continued treatment that he needed. The two silver coins he gave to the innkeeper represented two days wages for a typical worker, so it was not just some token gesture in his part.
Whenever we choose to serve the needs of other people, there is always a cost involved. Sometimes our time, sometimes our emotions, sometimes our financial resources, and often all three.
Jesus describes the three types of people that are present in the world:
• First, there are those like the robbers, who look at others and say “Everything you have is mine, and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get it.”
• Then there are those like the priest and the Levite that say, “Everything I have is mine, and I’ll do whatever I need to do to keep it.”
• But then there are the Samaritans who say, “Everything I have is yours, and I’m willing to give all I have to meet your needs.”
Which one are you?