I was thinking this morning of the passage in Luke 10 regarding the Good Samaritan. This story crossed my mind because of where we are on the calendar. We are in the season that is often called “the season of giving.”
You may remember the story.
A man goes down to Jericho and is attacked by thieves. They wound him, take his clothes and leave him half-dead. A priest happens by and when he sees the wounded man, he passes him by. Later, a Levite (temple servant) passes by, sees the man and passes without helping him. Finally, a man from Samaria passes that way, sees the man and has compassion on him. He bandaged his wounds, set him on his donkey and brought him to an inn where he took care of him. The next morning, before leaving, the man from Samaria gives the innkeeper enough money to house and care for the man until he becomes able to go his way. He even pledges more money if necessary to see the man well.
Samaritans and Jews had a long standing prejudice between them. When the Babylonians conquered northern Israel, they brought in Gentiles from other countries to settle the land. They brought their gods with them and intermarried with the Jews who were left behind. Later, when the Jews tried to resettle Jerusalem, the northern peoples resisted the attempt. During the resettlement, monotheistic Jews came against the intermixed race and caused the Jews to give up their Gentile wives. This distaste for one another was still active in Jesus’ day.
Through the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus was teaching His listeners that love is to be shown to all and that God can use anyone to reflect His compassion.
I thought I’d leave you with a few characteristics of those who are willing to be used by God to show compassion to those placed in their pathway:
- Be willing to be put out.
The priest and Levite were too busy or too scared or both to take time to stop and help the injured man. I always tell the people of our church that they must be willing to stop and help those who are in need. People of compassion have an aspect in common – they are people of courage. They place love before self interest. Take time to look around you this Christmas for those who are “wounded” and take the time to stop and pray or offer practical assistance.
2. Be willing to pay out.
The Samaritan was willing to spend some of his personal treasure to help the injured man. If our budgets don’t allow for compassion, then they are too self motivated. If you are going to be used as an instrument of God’s peace and compassion, you must be willing to dig into your pocket to help someone else.
3. Be willing to plan it out.
Much compassion is unexpected. In other words, you happen upon someone as the Samaritan did the wounded man. But, planned compassion is no less powerful. Planned giving is just as much a blessing as moments of compassion that come unexpectedly. Tell your kids that for each item on their list, you want them to put down a person or child they want to bless. This could be the best Christmas you’ve ever experienced with a little bit of planning.
4. Be willing to kick prejudice out.
Not everyone who needs help caused their own misery. Many are suffering because “life” happened to them. Many people justify their lack of compassion to others because of their prejudice. It really doesn’t matter what circumstances brought someone to a point of need. Some of the most powerful acts of compassion are shown in situations in which it appears undeserved. Jesus chose the characters for His story very carefully and purposefully. He used a Jew and a Samaritan on purpose to teach us that true compassion has no prejudice.
Be ready this year. I’ll bet before all this is over, you will run across someone who needs help. I also know that there are many in your city who need compassion. You can experience the joy of compassion and the blessedness of giving by slowing down, carrying cash for others, planning to get involved, and throwing prejudice away!
Scrooge or Samaritan – who will you be? Your choice will make your Christmas!