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If you don't help, who will?

March 24, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Service

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.’” (Luke 10:29-34)

A couple of weeks ago, I read an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” which he delivered a day before he was assassinated. In that speech, he references Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, and says something that could be quite the paradigm shift for some of us:

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, of course, there is a Jewish man who is beaten and robbed and left for dead along the side of a very dangerous road. Two men, a Levite and a priest (both respected religious leaders of Jesus’ day) walk on by the man, perhaps for fear of being ambushed themselves, or of becoming ceremonially unclean by touching a dead man. But the third man, a Samaritan, a hated ethnic outsider in Israel, stops and shows the man mercy by bandaging his wounds, pouring on oil and wine for healing, and bringing him to safety. Jesus tells this parable in response to the question of who our neighbor is, and the answer is that our neighbor is anyone in need, regardless of whether they are one of your kind.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s reflection on this parable is worthy of meditation. We are naturally self-centered, and when confronted by an opportunity to help someone in need, are quick to consider how it might inconvenience us. But as King points out, the Good Samaritan reverses the question, asking instead what will happen to the man on the side of the road if he does not help out.

Giving of our time, money, and energy to help an individual in need is almost always inconveniencing. When we help, we are taking a resource that we could use to meet a need of our own and giving it away for the benefit of someone else. And sometimes there are legitimate reasons to say no to helping another person, because the cost may be too steep, or the help we could give be more enabling than helpful. But the mindset I want to challenge you to consider is the one described by King and portrayed by the Good Samaritan. Put yourself in the shoes of the other, and ask what will become of them if you choose to do nothing. Remember the lengths to which Jesus went to rescue you when you were helpless in your sins, and consider how He might be calling you to be His hands and feet in this world.

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