We can be tempted to avoid those in need. There are many reasons that might be given for our actions. Fear can be one of the first hurdles to loving our neighbors. It’s always cleaner, safer, and easier to stay disengaged – to be indifferent. Busy schedules can be another excuse. Time pressure can become a moral influencer in our lives. We become so busy with our classes, jobs, and commitments that we rush by breathlessly from obligation to obligation. Other times, our skepticism of the genuineness of the need can keep us from helping people. Sadly, some people do prey on the charity of others–a tragedy that hardens our hearts to those who are genuinely in need.
The people listening to Jesus were very aware of the road he describes in today’s parable. Connecting Jerusalem to Jericho, it was notorious for being a place of violence at the hands of thieves. The listeners would have expected either the priest or Levite to stop and render aid. Why didn’t they? Jesus does not tell us, and maybe that alone makes the point. Whatever justifications they might have offered do not matter. They probably had their reasons, just as these days we have our reasons. But indifferent people never make a difference.
In Jesus’ parable, it’s a Samaritan who stops and helps the beaten man. Jesus finishes the story by asking which of the three was a neighbor to the man in need. Did you catch the twist Jesus makes through the story? The lawyer starts with a question, “Who is my neighbor?” By the end, Jesus calls on us to answer the question, “What kind of neighbor will I be?” Will I turn away and withhold my help, or will I turn toward the need? Jesus challenges us to go do as the Samaritan did.
Prayer: Ask God to help you see what, if anything, holds you back from loving your neighbors. Then pray, “Lord, thank You for not rushing by when we were in need. Help me to love others with the same care and compassion with which You have loved me. Help me overcome my fear, busyness, and skepticism to love those in need well. In Jesus Name, Amen.”