Does Anybody Care?
Luke 10:25-37. We call this “The Parable of the Good Samaritan,” but it is much more than a story. When Jesus spoke these words, He was focusing the white light of His judgment on the human heart. Each one of us is in this story in one way or another. We cannot escape.
A man is walking down the road alone. When you look at this man, what do you see? Tell me what you see, and I will tell you what is in your heart. In this story, we discover five different attitudes toward the man, five attitudes that are found in our world today.
To the thieves, this man was a victim to exploit.
Our world is filled with “things” and “people,” and God made them both. God wants us to use things and love people; but we have reversed this. We love things and use people! In fact, we are even willing to hurt people in order to get the things we love. Whenever I hurt a person in order to secure something that I selfishly want, I am guilty of exploiting.
You can always tell the “exploiter” when you meet him. He takes, but he does not give. He hurts, but he does not heal. He talks, but he does not listen. His only interest is to use you for his own purposes. Whether or not you are hurt or robbed does not worry him, just so long as he gets what he wants.
Society today is filled with exploiters. Unfortunately, there are parents who “use” their children and then wonder why the children leave home. There are husbands who “use” their wives, and wives who exploit their husbands; and before long both end up in the divorce court. City officials can “use” their associates as stepping-stones for their own careers, and it never bothers these officials that they have to step on somebody else to “get to the top.”
It is even possible for churches to exploit people! A pastor can “drive” his people in order to make him look like a success. I remember preaching at a church in Milwaukee some years ago and seeing a group of young people arrive for the evening service who had not attended the youth meeting. I recall hearing the sponsor scold them by saying, “If you had been here, we would have had 37!” I find it hard to believe that the main reason for wanting a teenager in a youth group is so somebody can count him.
Jesus Christ never exploits a person. He never takes from us without giving more to us, and anything He takes away is not good for us anyway. There are times when He seems to hurt us, but He never harms us, and He always heals those wounds. Jesus never leaves a man worse than He finds him; He always leaves him a better man.
As Christians, we dare not “use” people; we dare not become exploiters. When we see another person, our question ought not to be “What can I get out of him?” but “What can I give to make his life richer?”
There is a second attitude in this parable: to the priest and Levite, this man was a nuisance to avoid. They “passed by on the other side.”
Now, you would have expected these two men to get together and help the victim! They were religious men, servants of God in the temple. Certainly they knew the Law of God about loving one’s neighbor! Here was an opportunity to minster to a human being in need, but they passed him by. Before we criticize them too severely, we had better count up the number of times we have passed people by and looked upon them as nuisances.
Of course, like the priest and Levite, we have our excuses! A friend of mine defines an excuse as “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” These men could have said, “We have already served at the temple! It’s been a busy week for us!” But God says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” And Paul reminds us that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” How easy it is for us to go to church, work in the church, and even sacrifice for the church, and yet pass by the very people who need our ministry the most!
Or, they may have said, “Well, it isn’t our fault that this fellow is in the mess he’s in!” This is the echo of the voice of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Historians tell us that hundreds of priests and Levites used that road from Jerusalem to Jericho. I wonder why it was so dangerous? You would think that such a large group of influential religious leaders could have done something about that highway! They may not have beaten the man themselves, but their neglect made it possible for others to beat him.
I can hear the priest saying, “Well, I won’t stop now. There’s a Levite behind me and he’ll take care of the fellow.” Then the Levite came along and said, “The priest didn’t do anything, so why should I?” How easy it is for us to “pass the buck” or use the other fellow as an excuse for doing nothing.”
Believe me, when a man considers the other fellow a nuisance to avoid, he can always find an excuse. The man who is good at excuses is rarely good at anything else. He may have a good excuse but a bad conscience. And Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you did it not to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it not unto me.” We do not have to hit the man and rob him; all we have to do is pass by on the other side. From which people do you and I turn away today? Which people do we not want to see? Believe me, one day we will see them—and we will discover what a terrible thing it was when we passed them by.
What did the lawyer see in this man? To the lawyer, this man was a problem to discuss. “Who is my neighbor?” he asked Jesus, trying to get out of a tight situation. “Let’s take some time to discuss the problem of neighborliness!”
One of the best ways to do nothing at all is to call a conference and talk about it! I remember attending a conference on evangelism here in Chicago several years ago. At one of the sessions, I noted that an associate of mine was missing. I saw him at lunch and asked him where he was. Do you know where he had been? Out in the lobby leading one of the bellhops to Jesus Christ! While I was listening to a lecture on evangelism, he was out doing the job!
This reminds me of something that Mr. Moody did here in Chicago a hundred years ago. He had asked Mr. Sankey to join him at a certain street corner. When Sankey arrived, Moody put him on a soap box and asked him to sing; so Sankey sang “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” A crowd gathered, so Mr. Moody got on the soap box and invited the men to the nearby opera house for a meeting. A great crowd followed Moody and Sankey as they sang their way down the street. Moody preached the Gospel to these men, and then closed by saying: I’m sorry, but we must vacate the auditorium now. They are having a conference this evening on ‘How to reach the masses!’”
How easy it is for us to talk about problems and ignore people! Someone has defined a committee as a “group of people who individually can do nothing, and collectively decide that nothing can be done!” This lawyer wanted to discuss a theoretical problem, but Jesus talked about one man who needed help. The lawyer was interested in theory; Jesus was interested in practice. The lawyer would have been happy to discuss theology all day, just so long as he did not have to be involved! But Jesus turned the tables on him and said, “The question is not ‘Who is my neighbor?’ but ‘To whom can I be a neighbor?’” Jesus went from the general to the specific, from the ivory tower to that dangerous highway.
Jesus does not want us to be spectators on the road of life. He wants us to be participants. We pride ourselves in our understanding of the Bible and our ability to discern the signs of the times; and yet often we fail to touch the lives of those who need the message of Christ. Our talking is a substitute for our walking!
A pastor friend confided in me one day, “I don’t think I have a single soul-winner in our church. I have scores of people who have earned certificates in study courses on witnessing, but not one of them has ever won a soul to Christ as far as I know!” Did not James say something about being “doers of the Word and not hearers only?” May the Lord deliver us from looking at people as problems to discuss! May we see them through the eyes of Jesus Christ as souls for whom He died!
Now let’s go to the innkeeper. What did he see in this man who was carried in from the highway? He saw a customer to serve. He was paid to take care of the man, so he took care of him.
I wonder how much Christian service would be given if there were not some kind of reward? “What will I get out of it?” is the key question, and if the answer is “Nothing now, but God will reward you one day,” then we pass by on the other side. Unless there is public recognition, we are not interested in the job. Like Peter, we say, “Lord, we have forsaken all to follow Thee. What shall we get?” It was a wonderful day in Peter’s life when that “What shall I get” was changed into “Such as I have, give I thee!”
Jesus came as a Servant. “I am among you as one who serves,” He reminded His disciples. While they were arguing over who was the greatest, Jesus was on His knees washing their feet! Christian service always demands sacrifice. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “And if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17). Sacrifice and service! These are the two marks of ministry for Jesus’ sake.
Do we serve Christ for love, or for gain? Do our feelings get hurt if what we have done goes unnoticed by men? Are we content to let God keep the books and give the rewards? Do we preach, teach, sing, visit, and work in the church because we have to, or because we want to? I am not denying that “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” But I am warning us that the laborer had better labor for a higher motive than that! “Do all to the glory of God.”
To the innkeeper, this man was a customer to serve. The only link between him and the victim was a couple of pieces of money.
We have come now to the most important person in this story, the man we call “The Good Samaritan.” What did he see when he saw the victim lying on the road? He saw a neighbor to love and serve.
Now, this Samaritan was the last person you would have expected to help, because the Jews and Samaritans had no dealings whatsoever. The Jews cursed the Samaritans! In their synagogue services, the Jews regularly prayed that no Samaritan would share in the resurrection! The Jews would welcome Gentiles who wanted to become Jewish proselytes, but they would never welcome a Samaritan. It was a part of the Jewish religion in that day to despise the Samaritans.
This Samaritan is a picture of what you and I must be along the road of life. Almost every day we meet “victims”—people who have been exploited, emotionally beaten and robbed, and left for dead. Four words describe what the Samaritan did to help this man.
Contact—“He came where he was.” The priest and Levite had walked by on the other side, but this man came where he was! When God wanted to make Ezekiel into a great prophet of hope for His captive people, He put Ezekiel down right in the midst of that captivity. The prophet could say, I sat where they sat!” The Samaritan came where he was! How much easier it is for us to read about these problems, or hear them discussed at a distance! No, Jesus wants us to go where they are, to sit where they sit. There was contact.
Compassion—“And when he saw him, he had compassion on him.” This word “compassion” is one of the great words in the Christian vocabulary. “And when Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion…” When Jesus saw the widow in the funeral procession at Nain, “He was moved with compassion on her, and He said, Weep not.” Compassion speaks of the entire inner man yearning over the needs of another. It is more than pity; it is more than sympathy. It is Calvary love. It is doubtful that the innkeeper had compassion for the man, but the Samaritan did. And what a risk he took to stop and help the man! Perhaps the robbers were still in the area! But Christian love never thinks in terms of risk; it thinks only of sharing with those in need.
Care—“He…took care of him.” Compassion never stands still; it always does something. Unlike the lawyer, the Samaritan did not just “talk” about the situation; he did something! He poured in wine to cleanse the wounds; then he poured in oil to heal and soothe. He put the man on his own beast and took him to the inn. Think of how dangerous it was to do this! But when we care, we think of the other person, not ourselves.
Cost—He paid the bill in advance! The Samaritan knew he would never be repaid financially for what he had done, but he was repaid spiritually. Unlike the thieves, his philosophy of life was, “What is mine is yours, and I’ll share it.” The thieves said, “What is yours is mine—we’ll take it!” There is always a price to pay when you start to govern your life according to Christian love. Jesus revealed God’s love, and think of the price He paid!
It goes without saying that the Good Samaritan is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ. You and I are the victims. Sin, Satan, and the world have robbed us, beaten us, and left us “half dead.” We were dead spiritually but alive physically! Christ came where we were: He was born in human flesh, “Immanuel—God with us.” He had compassion on us and cared for us. He shed His blood to heal sin’s wounds. He paid the price! And now because of His grace, you and I are God’s children.
But perhaps it is time we left the inn, where others are caring for us, and got on the highway of life where we can do for others something of what Christ has done for us. I am sure Christ wants us to escape from our little “bomb shelters” and get out where we can serve others. What do we see when we look at people—the people on the streets, the people we work with and live with, the people who attend this church? Do we see people as victims to exploit, or nuisances to avoid? Are they problems to discuss or customers to serve? Jesus wants us to see them as neighbors to love and help, as people with feelings and fears and frustrations that we can help remedy.
Our world today is just as dangerous as that highway from Jerusalem to Jericho. Many a pilgrim has fallen victim to the difficulties of life. May the love of Christ constrain us to go where they are, show compassion, give them care, and love them the way Jesus has loved us!