…Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by 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 travelled, 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’
The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
There is a lot to learn from this parable about putting love into practise. And so, in this present study, we continue to examine the actions and motives of the Samaritan.
Previously we looked at the generosity of the Samaritan in this situation, and tried to get an idea of the value of the actual currency that was paid to the innkeeper. Today we will look at the things implied in the next sentence: “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
Of course, this is only a short story, a parable. The characters are all fictitious and the whole thing exists only to answer one specific question from the expert in the law: ‘Who is my neighbour?’ And so I can certainly be charged with reading extra meanings here that were not intended.
Yes, I am sharing what God has spoken to me about and touched my heart with. I also, however, have a strict rule about such things – that doctrine is never based on personal revelation in this kind of way. It is the wonder of scripture that we can read the same passage a thousand times, and then the next time the Lord will speak to us through it and show something that we did not see before. Usually this will be words for our own lives. That is why it is important to think and to pray and to let the Holy Spirit speak to you and challenge you, and you can find direction for you life and correction also. But that kind of thing is not direction or correction for the whole congregation.
For that latter to happen, you need confirmation from several scriptures. I have in the past explained why that is. It is simply dangerous to form a firm doctrine based only on the words in one verse of the bible alone. It is also very important to take into account the context of the verse and the words in it.
For instance, one of the main verses often quoted by those who preach the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ and is used very often just before the collection is taken and that comes from Luke 6:38. Yet this verse is not about monetary giving but about judgement, and what will come back to you according to the measure that you give out in this regard. A very very different true meaning to the words compared with how it is often used by TV preachers today.
The things that I share here, therefore, I either try to relate to other scriptures and context, or I share as things that challenge me personally and may be interesting to others also, and may perhaps in this way also be a challenge for others.
Above all, I wish to share love and how to love.
This should be the most visible thing of every Christian’s life, witness, home, social interaction, and so on. It is the love of the Father that sent his son Jesus to be the salvation for us all. It was the love of Jesus that took him to the cross for us. It is love that enables us to identify with this sacrifice, to recognise it is our own sin that caused it, and to place our sinfulness there on the cross with him. It is love that raises us into new life, now clothed in the righteousness of Christ. It is love that gives us the confidence to come before the Father as his sons and daughters. It is because of love that we can call the heavenly Father ‘Daddy.’
And here, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are taught such a lot about love, and putting it into effective action.
The first thing that I want to suggest, based on the sentence we have reached, is that the innkeeper and the Samaritan already know each other to a degree. There seems to be a level of mutual trust. The innkeeper does not object or comment when the Samaritan suggests that more money may be needed than he gives at that moment. And the Samaritan trusts the innkeeper to do the right things with the money. This is necessary for the agreement that is being made.
The Samaritan will return, and so see what his money has been spent on and any extras above the amount. The innkeeper trusts the Samaritan to return and to pay the extra if necessary. This is not a one-sided trust, but has to work both ways.
Of course, the first challenge to us here is obvious: how do others see or feel about us? Are we trustworthy? This is not something that we can decide for ourselves.
Of course, we want to feel that we are trustworthy and that people should trust us, but it only becomes true when people actually trust us. And this kind of thing does not happen at first meeting (or, at least, not usually). It requires experience of another person over a few meetings.
It is also nice to feel that we can have relationships with mutual trust. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we only really give that kind of trust when we have known someone for a while. And the Samaritan must have this kind of relationship with the innkeeper, because he was trusting the man with fair use of a lot of money, and trusting the health and care of the wounded man into his hands. That is a lot to trust another person with! And he also must have realised that this innkeeper was a good and sympathetic soul to leave such a burden with him.
In a sense we have a small snippet of ‘wouldn’t the world be a better place if…’ I hope you can understand what I mean by this.
The second thing that comes to me from this sentence is something that I have hinted at or mentioned over previous studies. That the Samaritan had committed himself to proper care for the wounded man in a way that reveals love of the neighbour. It was not just ‘doing the duty of a good citizen’ of delivering the troubled person into safe hands and then going away. He was investing time, money, skills, care, and more into this. And he was going to return.
Of course, I am reading in to this again. We are not told when the Samaritan planned to return. It could be any time – even after a month or two or more. But I like to think that, because he paid the innkeeper the equivalent of two days wages, then he would return, at the latest, on the third day. (The third day features big in the story about Jesus, as we well know. Even the resurrection on the third day.)
Coming back so soon, he would be able to check on the recovery of the injured man. To find out more about him and about what had happened (maybe to have something to tell to the authorities). He could check if the man was able to travel yet, and so to think of taking him to his family.
But the bottom line here: when he left the man with the innkeeper, he knew that the job was not finished yet. The man was not yet recovered, and he was also not home. His life was still in a poor state. He still needed friends and care. So the Samaritan was not just going to forget about him. He was going to check in on him and provide any further care as necessary. I don’t think this is too big a leap from the text, because I feel this is implied by the willingness to cover any extra expense that may be incurred.
And then I think of people who have been won for Christ through the gospel, and then after a short period they fade away and disappear.
In one sense, we are all like the injured man and left half-dead on the road of life. Then there is the Samaritan, maybe, who brings us the gospel of life. No longer are we left dying. But what next? So often, the person who was half-dead is still left there on the road, still in danger, not knowing what to do next or where to go.
Or maybe they may be taken to the inn (the local church?) and just left there. The people there do not know the person and vice versa. The new person often does not even know what help to ask for. And the new person may be very shy…
There can be a lot of things to drive the new person away. For instance, to be called to the front ‘to give their testimony’ before they know anyone, while still feeling very shy, and when not knowing much doctrine or the right ‘terminology’ – this can be daunting and scary! This on its own can stop someone from attending again.
Or there is the person who comes in with all the zeal that is often the case with new salvation, but they are ignored. They are not, of course, part of any of the cliques in the church. And maybe they never get invited to anyone’s home – they, simply, are not cared for. So coming to such a church can be a lonely experience, even if that church has many people.
The Samaritan was prepared to invest a lot of time and money and even his own property to care for the man, and not only to remove the danger of death. Not only that, he ensured that there were others (the innkeeper – who maybe had staff) to care for the man. And he went further – he was going to check on the progress and to do any of the extra that may be necessary to make sure of the well-being of the man.
How different from the hit-and-run gospel preaching that many face today, without the proper after-care. Without the proper giving of love.
Yes, to preach the gospel and call for repentance is a very good thing. But babes need feeding and care, otherwise they will die.
Lord, teach us all to provide the proper care and help to those we meet on the road of life!