That Pesky Good Samaritan
I’ve been a follower of Jesus for a good long time, but I’ve gotta be honest with you: There are some Bible stories that bug the heck out of me.
I’m fairly certain I discern the makings of an ongoing series of blog posts on this subject, so I won’t spill all the bugged beans in one entry. But for today, let me just say that I’ve never thought The Good Samaritan was overly compassionate. In fact, I’ve always thought he fell down on the job with a major thud.
So why did Jesus give him—-ostensibly, a fictional character in a parable the Savior was free to spin any way He liked—-such Scot-free kudos? Sure, compared to the religious creeps who passed by the beat-up guy on the other side of the road and wouldn’t even lower themselves to pretend they noticed his distress, The Good Samaritan looks squeaky clean and uber-caring.
But, honestly. Would YOU give a Best Samaritan Character award to a guy who staunches a bit of blood, drags a punk to a Super 8, spends one night loosely monitoring his vital signs, and then bribes the manager to cover the property damage?
I’ve never thought The Good Samaritan was too late, but I’ve always thought he did too little. Far too little.
For one thing, it seems to me the businessman (who had an appointment in Jericho that supposedly couldn’t wait long…..) did nothing to address the social needs of the guy who’d been mugged and beaten. Jesus’ story doesn’t indicate that the Samaritan tried to get the Division of Family Services involved, or contacted the police to file a missing persons report, in case the guy’s wife or parents were looking for him.
Furthermore, the story doesn’t indicate that the Samaritan was much of a conversationalist. Did he even attempt to soothe the victim’s fears, offer companionship on a level deeper than wiping his brow until his fever broke, or agree to play Mafia Wars or Farmville with him on facebook after the dust settled? There’s no reason to believe he did one darned thing more than meet the man’s basic survival needs and then consign him to someone who may or may not have been sufficiently motivated to provide ongoing assistance.
And then, when The Good Samaritan checked out of the Super 8 the next morning, he wrote a big, fat check to the manager. A check large enough to cover everything, including ongoing care for the injured man. Along with a promise to return and cough up more money, if the situation demanded it.
THIS is where the story gets dicey for me. How did he know he could trust the manager to do the caregiving task as well as he’d been doing it, which was at least at a level of basic competence if he got the guy through the night? Was it purely a case of “money talks” and just in case you’re thinking about slacking off, there’s plenty more where that came from? And also: How did the Samaritan determine that his business dealings in Jericho were still important, still an uppermost priority, in light of the fact that God had put this “person of need” directly in his path?
The truth is that The Good Samaritan drew a boundary on that blood-spattered road, and so did the priest and the Levite who walked past on the other side and averted their eyes and hearts. Unlike them, though, he was compelled to alleviate the type of human suffering that cannot be overcome by the victim’s efforts alone. He was compelled to bear the burdens of another until those burdens became less acute, but not to ignore his own callings and concerns completely.
I’ve always imagined the mugging victim dying at the incompetent hands of the Super 8 manager, but Jesus gives us no reason to think the victim had anything but a positive outcome after the Samaritan left his side. Besides, the story isn’t really about the Needy Guy,is it? It’s about us, and whether we step up to the appropriate boundaries in our lives. And when we do, making sure we do it in a way that meets the need of the desperate soul without misplacing our own callings and responsibilities.
Suffice it to say, I’m taking another look at The Good Samaritan and what made him tick.
And realizing that Jesus saw something in him that He’d very much like to see in me.
Posted by Katy on 01/05/11 at 10:17 AMFallible Comments...
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