Week 5 | Monday
Week 5: Faith In Action
The Good Samaritan: Mercy
by Janet Nygren
Read: Luke 10: 25-37
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply 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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 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. 35 The next day he took out two denarii [Note: about 2 days wages for a day laborer, covering a 2-week stay in an inn] 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.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
- As the expert in the law tests Jesus (v.25), what, or who, is the focus of his question? Who is the beneficiary?
- Jesus commends the lawyer’s answer, to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself.” But it is a bit like a “Sunday School answer.” While it is true, the answer doesn’t seem to penetrate his heart.
- How is the focus of loving God and neighbor different from the focus of his original question (about inheriting eternal life)?
- Would you say his desire to justify himself (v.29) is self-focused or other-focused?
- Jesus answers, in typical parable-like fashion, with a story that would make a lot of sense to the audience: a well-known, dangerous road where attacks were common; well-known characters including respected Jewish leaders and a hated Samaritan (who has featured in some of our other stories); and a picture-perfect example of generosity that goes the extra mile in time, convenience, and expense.
- As Jesus concedes to the expert’s self-focus, how does he turn the tables on the man’s desire to limit what he has to do, or who he has to do it to?
- What kind of neighbor are you? What holds you back from being as merciful as the Good Samaritan?
- When you do show compassion toward others, what is your motivation?
- Pray this Prayer of St. Francis from the 12th century as you ask God to help you grow in mercy:
- Do you have any stories to share of being a Good Samaritan or being the recipient of one?
- What makes it challenging to live this way day to day?
My nemesis in terms of being a good neighbor is “time”. I fear that I might not stop to help because I am rushing to my next appointment. I pray that I will always listen for the Spirit’s voice. There have been many times in my life when I have been the recipient of a good neighbor’s care. I am alive because a doctor stopped at the scene of an accident I was in and out tourniquets on my legs. I stayed at Hamilton College because a senior saw my homesickness and spent time with me each night before I went to bed. Terrie and I were mentored by a wonderful retired pastor in New Jersey who gave unstintingly of himself. In our litigious age, a broken and bloodied man might not receive help because he feared being sued after offering help. This story opens us to true Sermon on the Mount living. A radical “St Francis” style call comes as we live life in the Spirit.
I remember not that long ago when I had Covid for six weeks and how are you and Bert showed good neighbor, and brought me things and put it on the porch . So not only when you giving me food soups drinks so I will be OK but the most that it showed was that I was cared for. And that touches the heart more than anything else.
Me too,, Nick! AJ is so good at stopping for anyone who needs help, but sometimes that makes me mad when he's late or we're stressed for time. I recognize that this is a wrong attitude, but can't always remember that in time to be decent about it. I do try to listen for God's voice in these situations, but am ashamed to say I fail to help as often as I stop to help.
I always remember how an episode of the Chosen portrays not only Jesus's mercy but also His pardon and forgiveness towards one of the robbers in the Good Samaritan story. Our love not only has to go to those who are innocent but also to the guilty, the criminal who also has a story of his own to tell.
I remember that too David! His disciples were incredulous!
The phrase that jumps out at me today is from St. Francis: “For it is in giving that we receive.” My tendency is always to set boundaries to protect myself. I am afraid of being overwhelmed by the needs of others. But if I truly believed that a life spent serving other was the most life-giving way to live, I think it would dramatically change my perspective. As I think back over times in my life when I have tried to help others, it is true that they were sometimes messy and challenging, but it is also true that those were some of the most meaningful and life-changing experiences.
I have a small card with this prayer of St Francis on it that I keep in the clear business card slot of my classroom padfolio (it's always open on the podium in each class so I can jot down notes if students ask questions I need to look up later or are absent, etc).
And on Thursday, I walked toward my final class of the day hearing complaining and grumbling from the hallway. It's never a good thing when you hear words like, "and she just gave us like two days..." then silence when they saw me.
I started booting up the system for class, and looked down to see that prayer from my open notebook. It reminded me that I am there to teach the Franciscan values (which really boil down to loving your neighbor well), but I had asked the students to do a task that was obviously too much for them. So I asked them what was going on, and we got to the bottom of it.
I gave them an extension on an assignment that was stressing then out, after telling them I didn't want to hear everyone so upset and not do what I could to help. I think they were stunned.
But the point is, we talk all the time about loving our neighbor in all of those Franciscan ways, but if we don't demonstrate it (which I had inadvertently been overlooking by piling too much on then at once), then it's not going to stick. It's not as dramatic as a Good Samaritan story, but it felt like a way to love that particular group of neighbors well at that particular moment, and the prayer was what reminded me of my real job in their lives.
I recall one incident in my life when I stopped to give a homeless-looking person a ride part of my way to church. It was unusual for me, and I remember feeling fearful, yet it seemed like the right thing to do. It was actually pretty un-remarkable. Nothing happened. I don't remember any significant conversation. But years later, my son, who was a child in the car at the time, recalled it as a living example of this parable. I was thankful that I had done something right that had a significant impact on my son--this is what stories should do. But it shouldn't be the exception either. It's so much easier to have my eyes on myself than on God and others.
Recently during one of the big snow storms I was the recipient of a Good Samaritan. I was outside shoveling and was getting close to the end of my driveway where it’s always packed in and heavy. A man was walking down the road with a shovel and offered to help. At first I started to decline because I didn’t want to be a bother and thought maybe someone else needed the help more than me but I ended up saying yes. It took us maybe 10 minutes together and we had a nice chat.
This also makes me think of why it can sometimes be challenging to be a Good Samaritan. Sometimes people do not want help. Sometimes things are being kept private or they think someone else deserves help. That being said I think offering the help is still important.