Summary: Uses story of Good Samaritan to discuss our attitudes toward our own resources and toward the needs of others. Uses clip from movie "Forrest Gump" to illustrate power of kindness.
Donation or Duty?
The story of the Good Samaritan—a powerful reminder of how we are to respond to the pain and needs of those around us. Most of us are familiar with the story in our text. Most of us want to respond like the Samaritan and not like the priest and Levite. But how do we prepare ourselves for that kind of response? What went into the priest’s decision to avoid the problem? What was behind the Samaritan’s choice to inconvenience himself and help the man in need? No one acts out of a pure vacuum. We make our choices based upon attitudes already established before the crisis—our presuppositions, our world-view, our mindset and way of viewing things and people. That’s why we want to step behind the story this morning and explore the thinking that goes into these kind of decisions. I want to suggest two key areas of understanding that will strongly influence the way we respond to the next person in need that we encounter.
I. Attitudes toward my personal Resources
In 1 Cor. 4:7 Paul asks the question, “What do you have that you did not receive?”
The air I breathe is a gift from God. The strength to get up and work each day is a gift from God. The ability to learn and reason and solve problems is a gift from God. In Deut 8:18 Moses said to Israel, "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth...” He is the One Who gives you the power to get it in the first place. Is there anything I have in my possession that is mine independent of the generosity of God? When we take time to think about it we all know that nothing has come into our lives independent of God. It all ultimately comes from Him—our money, our ability, our strength.
Paul even takes that thought a step further two chapters later when he writes (1 Cor. 6:19), “...you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Not only are all my possessions the rightful property of God, but I myself am not my own. An awesome price was paid by
God for my redemption—the precious blood of Jesus.
I doubt anyone here would disagree with all that. But there is a reason that Moses and Paul had to remind God’s people of these realities. There is the danger that even though we know it is all God’s and we are only stewards of what He has placed in our hands—as a practical matter we would lose sight of that and begin to think: “It’s my money, I’ll do what I want to with it. I earned it and I have the right to spend it however I choose. It’s my life, I’ll pursue the goals that I want to pursue. I’ll spend my...my...my time the way I want to spend it.”
I think perhaps that kind of thinking was in the mind of the priest and Levite in our story as they walked around a person in need. I think they were very glad they were not one of the degenerates who beat that poor man and robbed him. What a horrible thing for someone to do. Thank God they knew the difference between right and wrong and would never do anything like that. Perhaps they would never do anything like that. But as far as them knowing the difference between right and wrong—that might be debatable. I’m afraid their definition of right and wrong was lacking somewhere, either in the understanding or in the willingness to simply do what is right.
“... to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Did the priest and Levite know that it was the right thing to do to stop and help the victim of this mugging? Down deep in their conscience I think they did. But they had developed a way of thinking that excused themselves from much that conscience would require. For example, family responsibility to aging parents is clearly taught in Scripture. Yet these religious people had developed a way to exempt themselves from that kind of burden. In Mark 7:9-13 Jesus told the Pharisees, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ’Honor your father and your mother’; and, ’He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ’If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban" -- ’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."