One day a man was walking home from church when he was unexpectedly surrounded and mugged by three thugs who beat him to almost the point of death, stole everything he had and left him on the side of the road to die. About thirty minutes later a Baptist Minister was walking down the same road. He saw the poor man bleeding and in pain but, he looked away and crossed over to the other side of the street and kept walking. About 30 minutes later a Catholic Priest was walking down the road and he saw the man lying there near death and bleeding. He too looked away and then walked over to the other side of the street. About 15 minutes go by and a young Muslim man sees the battered old man. He stops, rips parts of his own shirt to bandage the man’s wounds, calls a cab and checks him into the hospital. He writes the ER nurse a check for $500 and gives her his business card and says to care for him until he is well and send the bill to him.
Does this story sound familiar? Perhaps the greatest of all the parables, or lessons, of Jesus is the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Sure, I changed the up the characters a bit from a Jew, Priest, Levite, and Samaritan but, that is only because I wanted it to have the same shocking effect that the orignal had back then. It is said that the original lesson of the parable was to show an inquiring student who his neighbor was and to impress on everyone that we should treat each other, even an enemy, with kindness.
Personally, I think the parable teaches a lot more than that. Just think for a moment what else is being said here. Two clergymen walked right by this poor man. They are the very people who preach to people on how they are to act and the lives they are to lead and they walked right by someone who was in need of help. Then a muslim man, who is supposed to hate the christian man, stops and helps him. No one was around to see this. No one saw the hypocrisy of the clergymen and no one saw the loving-kindness of the muslim man. The actions of an individual define a person far more than anything they say. This is even more so when no one is looking.
Now look at yourself…
Do say one thing in front of someone and then a totally different thing behind their back?
Do you claim to be a man or woman of good morals and values, yet you have no problem flipping someone the one finger salute because they won’t let you merge on the interstate?
Do you tell your children to be honest and work hard in school and then find ways to cut corners at work and just do the minimum to get by?
Do you walk right past the charity box and buy yourself a Coke?
It is human nature to get ahead and to look out for yourself. We are all guilty of it. Darwin’s theory of Survival of the Fittest is more than a theory. It is part of our genetic make-up. Kindness and charity are values that all of us should strive to bring to the forefront. It has nothing to do with whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Humanist, or an Atheist. Kindness has no creed and charity is the purest form of universal love.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) a little less allegory is used to explain how our actions are to be governed. Since I am on the topic of what we do when no one is looking and charity has now been brought up I often get annoyed, especially at the end of the tax year, when I hear of the tax benefits of donating to charity. A personal benefit for being charitable? That totally defeats the purpose. People should give for the sake of giving and not because it benefits them in any way.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1-2)
So the lesson:
- We should give for the sake of giving.
- We should be kind even when no one is looking.
- We should treat others the way we want to be treated.
This sums up the Parable of the Good Samaritan as well as the overall message of Jesus of Nazareth.
© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light