Jesus and the Poor, Part Two
What does Jesus have to say about our response to the poor? Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Please take a moment and read the parable.
This is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It has influenced the world so much that when you say someone is a “Good Samaritan,” everyone knows what you mean. That’s a person who goes out of his or her way to help someone they don’t even know. Wouldn’t it be great if the word “Christian” were held in such high esteem as the phrase “Good Samaritan!” Christians and “Good Samaritan” should be synonymous because both should mean, “we love our neighbor as ourselves.”
This old Jericho road still exists today. One day, my wife Leigh and I took the kids and another couple and we had a devotional there, reenacting the story of the Good Samaritan. My kids wanted to be the robbers and not the Good Samaritan. I should have known we were in for trouble at that point. Thanks to God’s grace, they are both trying to be Good Samaritans today.
Jesus commands us to love our neighbor. That is a direct command. To justify himself, the lawyer in the parable asks, “Okay, Jesus, but who is my neighbor?” Does it sound a bit like some of us who ask, “Now who exactly are the poor? Are they the poor in the church or those outside it? Who am I obligated to help?” Jesus shows what it means to love our neighbor. To love our neighbor means to help those who are in need and to step outside nationalistic, religious, ethnic, social, cultural borders to do so. To love your neighbor means you step up to meet needs.
The priest and the Levite are callous to the needs of the injured man. They step back, step around, and step away from him. They don’t step where Jesus would have stepped. Here’s the “Aha” moment of the story—a Samaritan loves his neighbor. Someone outside the covenant community demonstrates the love of Jesus, while those in the covenant community are hard-hearted and callous.
The priest and the Levite literally turned away from their own flesh and blood. They stepped back, stepped around, and stepped away from the man who was hurting. A Samaritan was the neighbor who loved. And at the end of the discussion is the directive of Jesus. “Go and do likewise.”
The priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan each had the capacity and means to help the needy man. Each had the opportunity to help. What was the difference between the religious leaders and the Samaritan? Heart and action. On the one side we have callousness, apathy, and coldness. On the other, compassion, care, and concern. On the one side, inaction. Stepping back, stepping away, stepping over, and stepping around. On the other side, action. Stepping toward, stepping forward, and stepping up. Stepping in the steps of Jesus. Jesus extols the Good Samaritan and commands his disciples to imitate him saying, "Go and do likewise."
“Go and do likewise.” That is the teaching of Jesus on meeting the needs of the needy. “Go and do.” Which will you be -- the priest, the Levite, or the Good Samaritan? Which will we be as the church -- the priest, the Levite, or the Good Samaritan? Will we step back, step away, step around, and step over the poor, the needy, and the hurting? Or, will we step up, step forward, step toward those who need our help? Will we walk in the steps of Jesus? The steps of Jesus lead to the sick, the blind, the crippled, the leprous, the demon-possessed, and the poor. Jesus stepped up, stepped forward, and stepped toward those in poverty.
We must evangelize the world. We must strengthen, teach, and disciple our churches. We must minister to the needs of the poor. None of these are optional.
Allow the words of Jesus at the conclusion of the Good Samaritan to ring in your ears, “Go and do likewise.” “Go and do likewise.”