Friday, January 30, 2009

Being a Good Samaritan

Every time I hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, I can’t help but think of the time I was the priest or the Levite, and passed by on the other side of the road.

My wife and I were on vacation about 10 or so years ago, and we were pulling into the parking lot of a restaurant to have dinner. This parking lot was shared by the restaurant and another building. As we were pulling into the lot by the other building, I notice a rusted old car sitting there in front of the other building, looking like it was abandoned. I thought to myself that it was very thoughtless of somebody to abandon their junker in somebody’s parking lot. How rude!

As we drove by this car, I noticed two things. First, this other building was a pawn shop. And second, this rusted old car that was parked in front of the pawn shop had two people sitting in it: a man and a woman, just sitting there staring straight ahead, not moving.

As I drove past this car on my way to the restaurant, I suddenly realized what was happening. I’m pretty sure this young couple was pawning something valuable to them, such as their wedding rings, as a last desperate measure. As I was getting out of our car at the restaurant, I looked across the parking lot. The couple was slowing getting out of their rusted hulk, and I could sense how forlorn they were, even from a distance.

As we entered the restaurant, I glanced back and saw them slowly, reluctantly, making their way towards the pawn shop. At that point, I could have run over to them and given them some money, maybe enough to see them through the next couple of weeks. But I didn’t – I was the priest and Levite who passed by without stopping to help. I could have mentioned what I saw to my wife, but I knew she would insist in giving the couple some money, probably a lot of money, and I didn’t want to do that. After all, we were on vacation – we needed the money ourselves, or at least so I thought.

We can rationalize anything, can’t we? Yet the money we might have given them would have only meant the difference between eating at a good restaurant once or twice, and having a simpler meal. So I kept quiet, and the sight of that couple haunts me to this day – I can still picture them clearly in my mind. I missed out on a blessing because I was so selfish and uncaring.

When an opportunity to help someone presents itself, don’t let it go by without doing something. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 (NRSV): “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

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