"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:25-29).
When the lawyer posed this question, Jesus responded with a parable. He told of a man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, but was severely wounded and robbed by thieves on his way. They "stripped him," wounded him," and "departed, leaving him half dead." It just so happened, however, that a priest and a Levite passed by that very place--they could help him. But, for some reason, they didn't. Instead, they "passed by on the other side." Later, another man passed by that place as well--a Samaritan. The Samaritan came to where the man was, "had compassion on him," "bound up his wounds," "set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." On the next day, when he had to leave, the Samaritan gave the innkeeper two pence and "said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."
Why did the first two men pass on the other side? Why didn't they stop to help? Surely, if we were to see a man suffering so, we would not ignore him; we would not put our own obligations above the chance to help. I can look back at times in my life when I've seen people begging on the street, and I tried to offer what help I could, and to be honest, I think I can say that yes, I would stop to help that dying man. However, what about those people who aren't "half dead" on the side of the road? What about those people whose afflictions you can't even see?
I can tell you that I am guilty of passing by on the other side every single day. I'm extremely guilty of the tendency to set my own schedule, map out my own obligations, and follow through with them, so that I can accomplish what I need to in my own life. Unfortunately, as I've gotten busier and busier this semester, I've stopped praying for God to give me opportunities to help, and I've stopped actively seeking out those who are struggling. Maybe those two men had a meeting to get to, or a paper to write before midnight. I don't know. All I know is that when I read this parable tonight, I was appalled at their behavior. I could not believe their open neglect towards their fellow man. But then the Spirit whispered to me that I was guilty of the very same offense.
God needs us to be tools in helping His children. For all I know, I could be sitting at a table for lunch, and God has put me next to a person who severely needs someone to talk to. But because my perspective is zeroed in on my needs and my worries, I could potentially be passing by many suffering people who need the assistance of a Good Samaritan.
"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise" (Luke 10:36-37).