July 25, 2004: Don’t Just “Pass Bt On The Other Side”

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in our hectic world with our busy schedules, it is o so easy and o so tempting to overlook others in real need. We all know that talk is cheap. We all know that talking about Christian love is far easier than actually practicing it—especially toward people whom we might not even know. Lord, today remind us how important it is to help those in both physical and emotional need. Remind it that it is Your holy will for us. And also motivate us to action by focusing our thoughts on how You came and still come to help and assist each of us. Amen

TEXT: Luke 10: 25-37

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
One local talk radio host likes to remind his listeners that: “No good deed goes unpunished.” To his mind you should never get involved in helping another person because only bad things—lawsuits, complaints, or harassment results. That radio talk show host is dead wrong. How do I know that? Because Jesus says so in our text.

It is interesting that the term “good Samaritan” has been taken into our modern vernacular. Just this week I was coming home from a call on Rt. 128 and saw the CVS “Good Samaritan” van pulled off on the shoulder helping a stranded motorist. Although we all know this story, this parable, this earthly story with a heavenly meaning quite well, it is good to look at it with fresh eyes and to be reminded that when we see people in real need:


As I’ve said, this lesson is a very familiar one. An expert in Biblical law, a lawyer, who apparently thought quite highly of his abilities stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law (the commandments and the Old Testament)? How do you read it? Jesus replied.” And then the man answers: “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 neighbor as yourself.’” In other words keep commandments 1-3 which deal with your relationship to God and also commandments 4-10 which deal with your relationship with your fellow humans. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Now, the point here is that if we were perfect, sin-free humans we could “do this” perfectly and God would then be obliged to reward us with heaven, (eternal life) as a result. But the fact is, we can’t “do this” perfectly. We fail most miserably on all counts. And that’s exactly why God had to send Jesus.—To “do it” for us and to suffer and die to pay for our failings. We can inherit eternal life only through faith in Jesus Christ. We can achieve “Godliness” only through the gift of “Godliness” which Christ has earned for each of us on the cross. And in this Christ was the ultimate “Good Samaritan.” He reached down from heaven and helped us even when we didn’t ask and didn’t know enough to ask! But, of course, that truth was an affront to this fellow’s pride. So, seeking to justify himself, he asks Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” Then to ram home His point, Jesus tells this wonderful little parable.


The old Jericho/Jerusalem road was the interstate of the day. And since it was rocky and wild, many bandits patrolled it looking for an easy mark. They found one in this traveling merchant whom they robbed, beat, stripped of his clothing and left for dead. After a time a church man, a priest, walks along, sees the man, averts his eyes and walks by on the other side of the road. He didn’t want to get involved. Perhaps he agreed that “no good deed goes unpunished.”? Then comes another church worker, a Levite, who does exactly the same thing. Finally, a Samaritan merchant comes along. This man was an outcast to the Jews. He was considered the lowest of the low. And what does he do? He helps the man. He dresses his wounds. He clothes him. He takes him to an inn. He stays the night with him and even pays the inn-keeper for his lodging. And then he also makes other arrangements to insure that this poor fellow would be provided for. At the end of the parable Jesus asks this lawyer, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” To which the self-important legal eagle replied grudgingly, “The one who had mercy on him.” Note well that this Jewish lawyer so hated the Samaritans that he would not even say the name. Instead, he replies “the one who had mercy.” It tells you a lot about the attitude of his heart, doesn’t it? Nonetheless, Jesus then adds: “Go and do likewise.”


“Go and do likewise” is a command of God. It is a command to each of us who wish to be called His children. The only question for us is: in our modern world, what is the best way to carry it out?

First, let me say that when you see another person in physical or emotional need it is your Christian duty, motivated by Christ’s love for you and them, which demands action. But, then you always have to ask: what is the best course of action? For example, if you see a stranded car along 128 what should you do? Sometimes it is dangerous to stop. If you’re alone or a woman, it is often doubly dangerous in our day. However, most have cell phones and help is only a call away. God expects us to use good judgement in these cases.

Recently one of our members told me the story of how he and a co-worker found and returned a wallet to another man. It took time, energy, and a bit of a hassle to accomplish this task. But, it was worth it for the love of Christ moved him to do it. I can recall once when I was in seminary and guest preaching in Iowa at a dual parish. My car broke down between the two churches. We limped to a farm and after explaining my predicament to the farmer he loaned me his truck and later towed my car to town to get it fixed. I wanted to pay him, but he said: “No.” “Just return the favor to someone else.” Was he a “good Samaritan?” Yes!

Occasionally, you will run across folks who have some kind of emotional problem which needs to be addressed. Maybe they have an alcohol addiction or the family needs crisis intervention. Often such people reject your efforts to help or even openly oppose you as you try not to simply “pass by on the other side.” Well, in such instances you do what you can, you try, but if rejection is met don’t beat yourself up over it. Pray for them, encourage them to get help, perhaps contact certain social agencies, and then commend them to the Lord’s care. After all, our Lord also tells us to “be wise as serpents and gentle as doves” when confronted with difficult situations.

The list of ways to help and people who need “good Samaritan” help are endless. The point of this lesson is that we dare never become apathetic or lazy in our help. And the only way to avoid that pitfall is to always remember that “there but by the grace of God, go I.” It is to recall how Jesus saw our needs, came to earth, suffered and died to save our souls, and how He still provides, protects, and assists us each and every day. So, don’t give in to the temptation to just pass by on the other side! Recall the good Samaritan and then go and do likewise! Amen