I’m amazed by the example of service and compassion we see in the parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29–37. A man is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he’s robbed, beaten, and left for dead. He’s passed by a priest and a Levite who do not offer help. A Samaritan stops along his journey and shows compassion. Verses 34 – 36 describe the actions of the Samaritan after finding the victim on the side of the road:
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”
This parable shows us a few things about loving our neighbor.
Loving our neighbor does not have boundaries
This parable is preceded by a conversation Jesus had with an “expert in the law” who is trying to “justify himself.” The law expert had just quoted Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and then followed that with a question for Jesus, “who is my neighbor?”
The law expert’s question revealed two troubling things: (1) He was trying to limit his compassion to certain types of people, and (2) He was hoping Jesus would share some particular qualifiers that would make the commandment attainable (i.e. your neighbor is any adult Jewish man who lives within one mile of your residence).
Surprisingly, the Samaritan is the one who helped the man along the road. That Jesus would use him as the one who showed mercy was incredible, because Jews and Samaritans were enemies. If anything, we would expect to see the Samaritan ridicule or perhaps even kick the man on the ground as he passed. Instead, the Samaritan is the one who had compassion. Of course, this happens after the Levite and the priest had both forgone their opportunity to offer help. The Levite and priest had all the biblical knowledge, all the ethical principles, and all the racial affinity to the man in the road who had been beaten . . . and yet they passed by without offering help.
We cannot limit our compassion to those who look like us, act like us, think like us, vote like us, or operate in the same socioeconomic class as we do. This parable reveals that Jesus requires Christians to show compassion to everyone, without exception. There are no boundaries when it comes to our neighbors.
Loving our neighbor demands time, energy, & resources
The Samaritan cared for the full range of needs the victim was facing. By stopping to help the victim, the Samaritan showed compassion in at least six ways:
1. He completely destroys his schedule, valuing the victim’s life over his own.
2. He becomes dirty and bloody through his personal involvement as he cares for the victim.
3. He gives up valuable commodities (oil and wine) to help care for the victim’s wounds.
4. He gives up his animal (and personal comfort), choosing to walk the rest of the journey.
5. He gives up his finances to pay for the hotel room for the victim.
6. He promises a return visit to check on his recovery and pay for any additional bills that the victim may have acquired during his stay.
Loving our neighbors will require our time, energy, and resources.
Loving our Neighbor is Not Optional
The Parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us that mercy is a true test of the Christian faith, and this is not an isolated example. There are over two thousand verses in the Bible that speak to God’s justice and love for the poor, needy, and oppressed. This was a core teaching in Jesus’ ministry.
In Matthew 25:31–46 we see Jesus distinguish between those who have true faith and those who do not by examining their fruit, namely, their concern for the most vulnerable among them. When Jesus says, “as you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (v. 40), He’s teaching them that the inevitable outcome of true Christian faith will involve deeds of mercy.
Seeking the Jericho Road
Living in a Birmingham suburb, it rarely feels like I’m on anything remotely close to resembling the Jericho Road like the one described in Luke 10. I can go about my daily routine for years and years while extreme poverty, starvation, homelessness, and orphaned children may never be seen. These kinds of issues certainly exist throughout America, but in many places we have to be intentional if we plan to be obedient to Jesus’ commands to be a Good Samaritan.
Foster Care and the Jericho Road
One need that can easily go unseen is children in the foster care system. Right now, there are more than 440,000 children in foster care. That number continues to rise, and the statistics on teenagers “aging out” of the system are horrifying. Most who work closely with the child welfare system in America will admit that it is a flawed and broken system. There are far more children needing a safe and loving home than there are families willing to care for them.
This is why it’s so important for the church to be the leader in caring for children in foster care. The church understands that loving children in foster care does not have race or ethnic boundaries. The church understands that loving children in foster care will demand time, energy, and resources. The church understands that loving children in foster care is not optional. The Bible is clear: Christians must stand in the gap for children from hard places.
Being a Good Samaritan to children in Foster Care
Most Christians understand that orphan care and foster care are biblical mandates, not just suggestions. There has been a groundswell of growing interest from the church over the last decade about being more intentional, and this is very encouraging. Nonetheless, the needs continue to rise, and more children need help. The good news is that there is something everyone can do to help, even if you aren’t sure that being a foster parent is something God has called you to at the moment. Here are five ways you can be a Good Samaritan to children in foster care:
1. Become a foster parent.
2. Become a respite care provider and provide temporary relief for foster parents so they can have a break.
3. Volunteer with an organization that works with children in foster care.
4. Provide acts of service (cooking meals, yard work, babysitting) and collect items (diapers, baby supplies, clothes, etc.) that help foster families feel supported.
5. Make financial gifts to Christian ministries that work with children in foster care.
The only thing we cannot do is what the Levite and the priest did along the Jericho road—ignore the problem and pretend like nothing is wrong.