How The Parable of the Good Samaritan Relates to Life Today
The term “Good Samaritan” today refers to a person who helps others in a random act of kindness. It originated from the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a story that is very familiar to Christians.
In the story, a Jew was robbed and left to die by his assailants. Two highly respected men passed by him but decided to walk away. Then a Samaritan came along. Unlike the other two, he tended to the man’s wounds and brought him to an inn. Then he gave money to the innkeeper saying, “Look after him and when I return, I will reimburse you for any expense you may have”.
What makes this story very compelling is that Jews and Samaritans are historical enemies. Jews don’t talk to Samaritans as they consider them renegades. And this enmity is returned by the Samaritans.
But what has a thousand-year-old story to do with us? Like any parable, Jesus used this story to teach us lessons about life and about God. Here are some of the most valuable lessons from the Good Samaritan parable that relates so much to life today:
Help When Someone Needs Help
Having the intent to help is good but acting on that intent is much better. The Samaritan’s intent didn’t save the wounded man from death. It’s his actions that ultimately saved the man’s life. He didn’t walk away just like the two men before him. He decided to do something.
In our time, that half-dead man’s photos would end up in social media before he even gets to the hospital. Everybody would take pictures but very few would actually dare to help. We’ll feel sorry for that person but not enough to get involved. Now, are we the good Samaritan or are we the men who walked away?
Race Should Never Matter
Xenophobia and racial prejudice have always been a great divider among nations. Since the ancient times to the present, we tend to distrust others who don’t look like us or sound like us.
But the Samaritan didn’t care about race. He showed us that racism has no place in charity. And that we should help others regardless of where they came from or what they believe in. After all, we are all created equal: no one race is superior nor inferior from the other. And at the end of the day, we all belong to the same race: humanity.
Be Kind Even To Your Haters
Have you ever wished ill of your enemy? Admit it or not, at some point in our lives we’ve all done that. Sometimes, the temptation to take revenge on our enemies is just so strong and difficult to resist.
In the story, the injured traveler most probably hated the Samaritan. And he knew that the dying man may still hate him after he recovers. Yet, he helped him. (Related: 5 Times Jesus Taught Us About Kindness)
The civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. famously said:
“On the parable of the Good Samaritan: “I imagine that the first question the priest and Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
Consider putting yourself in the Samaritan’s shoes. What would you have thought of first? The fact that he’s from a different race or that he is dying and needs help?
Help Without Expecting Something in Return
Be honest with yourself, would you help someone if you know they will never be able to return the favor? If you answered yes, then good for you. But most of us wouldn’t.
Most of us help because we are expecting a reward of some sort. We return a lost wallet and expect the owner to reward us. We help our friends because we assume that they’ll also help us when we are in need.
But, in doing so, we create a world where we only help “our kind” and those who are “one of us”. There is not much incentive to help strangers if we know we can get nothing from them.
The Samaritan knew that the wounded man may never help him in return. Yet, he pressed on because he knew it’s the right thing to do.
Being a Good Samaritan in its modern-day context is hard. Most of the time, we are so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget about our less fortunate brethren. But you can still fix that.
Start with little acts of kindness and practice more empathy. Think less about what others can do for you and more on what you can do for them. That, in itself, is already being a good Samaritan. (Related: The Most Valuable Lessons We Learned From “Tuesdays With Morrie”)