By Christina Hannon
In America, we are driven by time, pleasure, money, and power. These drivers are not inherently bad; they have helped Americans build a culture of prosperity, comfort, and innovation. But the deeper lesson of the Good Samaritan is that our neighbor is more important than time, pleasure, money, or power. It is a lesson that the people of Jesus’ time needed to hear, and it is a lesson we are still learning today. Let’s dive into the deeper lessons of the Good Samaritan:
CHALLENGING OUR TIME AND WORK
When I say people are more important than time, I also mean that people are more important than our work, deadlines, and time constraints. It is okay to be late for a meeting to help someone with a broken down vehicle, or to take time off of work to care for an elderly family member. The Priest didn't stop to help the robbers’ victim because, if he had touched a dying man, he would have been ritually unclean for his priestly duties in the temple. His work was more important than the suffering stranger. This is understandable. But when we see a neighbor in need, Jesus challenges us to put their dignity above our time constraints and work responsibilities.
CHALLENGING OUR PERSONAL PLEASURE AND COMFORT
The Levite was a respected member of society who also worked in the temple. It would not have affected his work to stop and help the robbers’ victim, because the Jewish purity laws were stricter for Priests than Levites, but it would still have been inconvenient for the Levite. The Levite had a “live and let live” attitude that day. This is understandable. However, in the case of the robbers’ victim, it was sadly a “live and let die” attitude. Jesus challenges us to put the dignity of others above our own comfort.
CHALLENGING THE WAY WE VIEW MONEY
We don't know how wealthy the Samaritan was, but we do know that he didn't care how much he spent to help the robbers’ victim get better. He gave the innkeeper two silver coins, enough for at least two weeks of lodging and care, with instructions that he would pay more if needed on his way back. Jesus is preaching compassion, no matter the cost. The health and dignity of our neighbor is more important than money.
CHALLENGING OUR PREJUDICE
In Jesus’ time, there was strong religious and political hatred between the Jews and Samaritans. In a traditional Jewish story a Samaritan could never be associated with anything "good." In many ways, they were the enemy. But in this parable, Jesus intentionally makes the Samaritan the "good neighbor" his Jewish audience, to show that dignity of our neighbor (even the ones that are "not capable of any good") greatly outweighs any differences of background or opinion. Today, our society still tolerates prejudice, although often not overtly. Jesus challenges us to not be blinded by prejudice when our neighbors are in need.
Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves is a counter-cultural call to live out the idea that people and relationships are more valuable than work, pleasure, money, or power. The challenge of the Good Samaritan is not to sacrifice all of our work or money every day for strangers, but to acknowledge in our hearts and in our actions that people are more important than things.