The Good Samaritan Is a Hard Act to Follow

(Spectrumbot) #1

Sabbath School Commentary for discussion on Sabbath, May 30, 2015

One of the scripture passages for this week’s lesson is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 6:25-37), one of the most iconic stories in the Bible. The expression “Good Samaritan” is indeed proverbial, in that even people who have never heard the story, much less read the Bible, know what it means: someone who goes out on a limb to help someone else, often a stranger.

Good Samaritan stories are popular in the news, and go some way towards alleviating the otherwise dreary litany of all the ways mankind can break the Ten Commandments. But what is it about a Good Samaritan that makes them more interesting and news-worthy than the everyday acts of kindness that pass without comment or notice?

There seem to be three related aspects to this. The first is that there is often some element of risk or sacrifice in the act, whether actual bodily harm, monetary cost, or just the time taken out from normal activities. In the parable, the Samaritan has to pause in his journey, in a spot he knows is dangerous. He takes the time to bandage the man’s wounds and, as it’s unlikely he was carrying a first-aid kit, he probably had to sacrifice some of his own clothing for bandages and his dinner for the oil and wine. He then forgoes the comfort of riding on his donkey in order to transport the man, detours to a safe place to leave him, and then pays the innkeeper a considerable amount to care for the injured man, with a promise to come back to make up any deficit.

The second aspect of a Good Samaritan is that they usually act on behalf of a stranger. Performing an act of kindness or sacrifice on behalf of friends and family is commendable but completely explicable. In fact it’s what we are programmed to do, particularly for close family or children. But to risk life and limb, or even our hard-earned cash, on a complete stranger is a very different prospect. Of course in the case of the parable it was doubly astonishing in that the Israelites and Samaritans despised each other. It would be like a Palestinian tending a modern day Israeli, or an illegal immigrant giving a helping hand to a white supremacist.

The third is that they perform their act of kindness with no thought of recompense or even of recognition. Sometimes the stranger who pulls a child out of a river, helps an elderly woman with a tire-change, gives a homeless man a pair of shoes, or the coat off his back, will fade into the distance after the deed is done and remain anonymous. Sometimes they are identified and when asked why they did it, will often shrug and say “anyone would have done the same in those circumstances” or “it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time”.

Altruism is defined as an “unselfish regardfor or devotion to the welfare of others”, or “behavior that is not beneficial to or may be harmful to one’s self but that benefits others”. It is not simply a synonym for kindness. It is not predicated on loyalty, which takes into account familial or social relationships. It is purely a willingness to risk something (or everything) for another’s wellbeing; whether or not that person is known to them; whether or not they approve of that person, their lifestyle, their politics, or their haircut.


This, people, is what Jesus tells us to do in order to be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Not being perfect. Not obsessing over making sure we worship on Saturday, pay tithe or baptize by immersion. Not even being on the “right” side of the Women’s Ordination debate.

According to Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the One with whom we cannot argue – the answer to “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is simple -

‘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 show mercy.

It’s harder than it looks.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

The political arena is heating up early this round. The religious right is flexing its muscle as never before. their agenda is a contradiction to the parable above. what is needed, is for someone to rehearse the words at the base of the statute of Liberty. I would like to hear one from Fox News recite it and then explain their world view in the light of those compelling words.

I recall the dean of the University of Illinois College of Dentistry. he had a PhD in Anatomy with a strong ideology of survival of the fittest. He had no use for congenitally compromised infants. then he had a stroke. His speech was slurred, he could not raise his foot high enough to step over the cord to his roving mic. then he wanted his name added to a major research grant for the treatment of clefts of the lip and palate. The principal investigator still burning from prior put downs refused. the dean went into early retirement a broken man. he was no more the fittest. Tom Z

(le vieux) #3

I hardly think that’s a fair comparison. The Samaritan wasn’t “illegal,” just despised or looked down upon. And we don’t know the ethnicity of the injured man.

Otherwise I agree with most of what the author said. However, I don’t believe most Adventists “obsess” over Sabbath, tithe, baptism, and certainly not WO (that’s mostly a debate here, on college campuses, and in “progressive” congregations. The subject is rarely discussed at our church. I guess we have bigger fish to fry. As for Sabbath, tithe, and baptism, Jesus addressed a similar theme when He reprimanded the Jewish leaders, not for paying tithe on their culinary herbs, but for neglecting the “weightier matters of the law,”–judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Matt. 23:23. IOW, balance. We are right to take care to keep the Sabbath, pay our tithe, and baptize people according to Scripture, but they are not the whole picture. These we ought to do, while not neglecting “judgment, mercy, and faith.”


I perceive it is basically unfortunate that the same areas of scripture get the warmed up leftover treatment to the exclusion or neglect of other significant portions of the gospels/scripture. Last week was the prodigal son obsession and this week is the microwave heat up of the good Samaritan. 2 parts in the SS lesson.
The lesson title is Jesus , the Master Teacher and much time will probably be devoted to laying a guilt trip on the audience because they were not like the star of the story.
I wonder how few SS teachers will point out the wise, tactful ,multi-faceted , comprehensive teaching approach of Jesus. The lesson on Monday indicates that the sermon on the mount was His greatest sermon and yet if a pastor, today, would preach anything close to what Jesus presented, it would be labeled overfeeding the audience. Look at all of the points that Jesus made in his sermon. Puts to shame even 3 point sermons…never mind the typical 1 topic sermons that most preachers present.

Anyone interested in quality teaching instead of the usual story telling?

(Carolyn Parsons) #5

It seems you missed the point completely. The writer was not defining the injured person as a particular ethnicity or immigrant status, it is the social animus against the injured man that is the point.

(Kim Green) #6

If only this were true, birder…from what I have seen in most Adventist churches the concern is mostly with things that only impact their own church and themselves.

(Sirje) #7

I was nine when I first saw that statue in NY harbor. I couldn’t read the words at its base because I was on a ship that was bringing those tired and some, poor; but also because I didn’t speak the language those words were written in - and neither could my family. We had waited five years for the piece of paper that granted us entrance into that harbor, and the chance to make our dreams come true.

My dad went to work for the owner of a plumbing business, clearing his yard from weeds; and my mom found a kind of a sweat shop, sewing labels on poorly-made garments - and I went to school to learn yet another new language. A few days after our arrival, I saw, for the first time, my dad cry once the reality of our situation had hit him.

To make a long story short, this country gave my parents the opportunity to succeed; but they, themselves, had to make it work. There were no free lunches, just the chance to create a new life; and we did. My dad learned to speak and write English, a kind of necessity if he was to get a license to drive; and find meaningful work. He learned to be a plumber and ended up paying my way through college.

The words at the base of the statue don’t say, “Give me your tired and your poor, and I will suckle you at my breast”. The impact of the words that are there, is more in the line of “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he will eat for life”.

… but I don’t know what Fox News has to do with it.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #8

Love your story, It was my great great grandparents that went through that experience. you have to listen to Fox News to get the Connection, Tom Z

“Fox News would like them to remain tired and poor or get lost on the way back home.”


The hot issues WO, LGT, LGBT, IJ,contemplative prayer, emerging church that get constant attention on Spectrum or in local churches are not the real threat to the church.

The real threat is the teaching style (what and how) that led to the masses rejecting the messiah. That teaching style prevails today in sermons and SS classes.

Notice how the audience after hearing Jesus made the remark…

Matthew 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
Matthew 7:29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Jesus even warned of their teaching…

Matthew 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

The issue is not so much about doctrine as about the lack of doctrine/content.

Diminution of scripture

(Sirje) #10

Like other left-wingers who trash “Fox News”, I don’t think you spend much time watching it. I do - with no apologies. Unlike other main-stream “news” organizations, they are not the left wing of the Democratic political party. The legitimate press has the responsibility to hold the government’s “feet to the fire”; not be free campaign managers for any one party. True, it’s mostly made up of political conservatives, and as such there is much criticism of the liberal viewpoint.

Liberal politics is made up of super rich people who pretend to care for the poor, while they trash the very foundations of the capitalistic nation that made them rich. For some reason, people who achieve financial success (other than themselves) are the bad guys; and the guys who have made social assistance their vocation are to be applauded and encouraged.

No conservative wants to make kids go to bed hungry and dump on those who don’t know who their fathers are; but they do insist on personal accountability and some personal effort. As for the kids on those Mexican trains - they were put there at great investment of their parents - money that was exacted by the drug cartels that run them across the make-believe border. Once the kids are here, the adults are soon to follow to cash in on the free education, drivers’ licenses, and interpreters in every school - and oh yes, on tax rebates they never earned since they were never here to earn them. Whenever anyone dares to point out the absurdity of the situation, they are labeled unfeeling and worse.

The words at the base of the Statue of Liberty talk about opportunity for those who want a safe haven to make a future for themselves - those who have been oppressed by regimes that legislate equal squalor for all (except the leaders); and oppressive rules and regulations that keep the poor, poor and rich, rich. It’s human nature not to appreciate what you can get for free.

The “good Samaritan” speaks to the individuals who put ideologies and religious bigotry ahead of real human need. No conservative is against ministering to those in need. They simply insist that the best way to help those in need is to help them stand on their own feet.

My dad used to point out to me, as young as I was at the time, that where ever there is a human problem and political confusion, there will be those who take advantage of it and come to peddle their own oppressive ideologies. Recently, this has been playing out in places like Furgesson and Baltimore, where failed government systems have created the messes they find themselves in; but they turn around and blame everybody else, egged on by outside manipulators. It is, in the end, a matter of personal responsibility - after that “good Samaritan” has picked you up and dried your eyes. That is the other side of the story.

(Kim Green) #11

Quality teaching requires quality story telling (i.e. Jesus, master of all story tellers). The concepts of the stories (the Bible) are to be applied to individual lives- perhaps THAT is where the troubles lie. I would agree that personally I don’t find most Adventist preaching to be that enthralling but the lack of “quality” in the sermons is only one facet of one’s spiritual experience.

(Brent Stanyer) #12

Wow, that didn’t take long. Within just ten comments and a few hours, this comment stream has more than enough topics to turn this space white hot. Let’s see: Fox News, immigration, characterizations (“caricature-izations”?) of political liberals and conservatives, “weightier matters” of the church, and so on. And, there are plenty more red flags ready to be added – and commenters quite willing to jump on them. Quite a list, but what doth Luke say about this? And, what of the author’s key points? Nah, let’s not get caught up in that when there are shots to take.

Imagine if we were a group walking the Jerusalem/Jericho road. These white hot topics would certainly come up along the way. We might start out as a congregation; would we end up that way? And, how long before we’d all be better off if the thieves along the road took us out of our misery?

Thanks, Regina Smythins, for reminding us about kindness, strangers, mercy, regard for others, and loving God with all of our hearts, soul and strength. For some reason, I think we might need that.

Sabbath blessings,

(Thomas J Zwemer) #13

both parties have and seek big money. Ilived through the Great Deoression. in SDA town iIn which 6 voted for Roosevelt and 300 for landslide Landon. We lived next to the railroad. we feed every homeless that stopped. Eggs, potatoes, Bread.Milk. Yes as much as I can stomach I watch Fox Bees and stand by my view of their philosophy. Tom Z

(Dudley) #14

Thanks, powerful stuff. But important is the last part: “It’s harder than it looks.” Yes, it is, we need help to do it. So hard is it that even some of the commenters here go off on a tangent rather than engage with this difficult, very thorny issue. Being merciful and loving God - wow, how do I actually do that? Thanks for calling us back to the gospel.


And the gospel is_____________?


Uh…doesn’t the Holy Spirit ever do any reminding?


Should the following verse be taken to a literal extreme?

Matthew 13:34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:

Was the 100+ verses of the sermon on the mount 100% parables?

Notice that I posted…"usual story telling. There are about 31,000 verses in the bible and almost 8,000 in the new testament. If the time at church is filled with repeating over and over again the same familiar stories (like last week-prodigal son) , how can any teacher even get close to what Paul mentions…Acts 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
There is a very subtle way of voiding exposure to the counsel of God by concentrating on the same warmed over passages year after year.
Some will say that people can read the bible for themselves. They don’t. 90% of churchgoers have never read through the bible once and I challenge any pastor to survey his congregation.

(Kim Green) #18

Okay…you have figured out what you perceive to be the “problem” and good luck with figuring out a solution.


The solution was already figured out 2400 years ago and is repeated in various parts of scripture, SOP and Christian history.

(Andreas Bochmann) #20

Not sure what you are trying to tell us here. How do you think the Holy Spirit is doing the reminding? What is your understanding of 2 Peter 1:21 in this context? If indeed you should wish to limit the work of the Holy Spirit to individual, unconnected revelations (“direct reminders”), you may have missed the point of the church as the body of Christ, of community, or for that matter Col 3:16

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and
admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs
from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.