The Good Samaritan parable is a familiar story and because of this we can run the risk of missing just how radical the message it conveys is.
Jesus is asked by a teacher of the law how he can inherit eternal life. When asked by Jesus what the scriptures say he responds with the perfect answer, “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 neighbour as yourself. (v27)
But he pushes Jesus, “But who is my neighbour?” Here he is doing what many of us do which is to enter into discussion on an issue in an attempt to avoid actually engaging personally with the challenge the issue brings.
The message translation of the Bible helps us here : “Looking for a loophole he asked, and just how would you define neighbour?”
Jesus responds with the familiar parable of a man who has been robbed and beaten and being shown mercy not by those the listeners would expect to be the heroes in the story, but by someone very unexpected; a Samaritan. Jesus is pointing out that it is those who actually show mercy that reflect the will of God but more than that, he is turning the focus of the story onto the listener. The question isn’t ‘Who is my neighbour?’ but ‘How are you a neighbour to others?’ Staying in the realm of discussion is the equivalent of keeping to your side of the road and not crossing over – it never involves a particular person that you have to consider. Asking how I am a neighbour to others is different, because I then am faced with the people I meet every day; the people right in front of me. Thinking in this way is the equivalent of crossing over the road.
Mother Theresa said, “One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody”
The Samaritan in the story sees the person in front of him and shows mercy. He does this by using the resource that he has : his Time, his Touch and his Treasure.
Time : He’s on a journey, obviously need to get somewhere and presumably has a time frame within which to do it, but he stops and gives time to the person, not only attending to him there but also taking him to an inn to recuperate.
Touch : Not only does he stop but he gets in close proximity to the wounded man, touches him to bring healing, identifies with him and gives up his own agenda for the sake of the one he is caring for.
Treasure : He spends his money, uses his donkey to bring help to the man.
Thinking about how God is a good neighbour helps here.
He chooses to give his time to his creation. He doesn’t have to, he is God and is perfectly fulfilled within himself, yet he chooses to give his time to us.
He chooses to give his ‘touch’ to us. The time he gives to us isn’t spent by him orchestrating from afar, he gets in close proximity, chooses to enter our world. As the message bible says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.” John 1:14 Doing this was at great personal cost to God. In Jesus he gave up his rights … made himself nothing….for our sake he emptied himself” Philippians 2
And all the treasure of heaven is made available to us. Followers of Jesus are invited to the family table to eat the feast which is laid for God’s family. We become heirs to all the treasure of heaven. Romans 8:17
And all of this resource is given for our sake because of the love that he has for us. Love crosses over the road, sees the person and uses all the resources at its disposal to be a neighbour to that person
Our call to be a neighbour to others needs to be rooted in an understanding of how God is a good neighbour to us and in the knowledge of the love that he has for us. If this isn’t true then we can so easily become religious about being a good neighbour and that is rarely good news!
The question for us then is ‘how can you and I use our Time, Touch and Treasure to be a good neighbour to those people who are right in front of us every day?’
Mother Theresa said the disease is that we are nobody to anybody. So the challenge to you and me today is : ‘How can we be Christ to somebody, with our time, our touch and our treasure?’
Written by Mike Rutter