The Reverend Mr. Watkins edits and publishes The Printed Preacher, a monthly gospel message, 303 North Third, Dayton, Washington 99328.
One of the most famous stories Jesus told is the parable of the Good Samaritan as recorded in Luke 10:25-37. It concerns a tragic incident on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, a distance of about 20 miles. Part of the road was very steep and rugged; some of it was quite smooth. It illustrates the common road over which all of us must travel; sometimes it is steep and rugged, and other times it is quite smooth. It’s every man’s road.
A number of characters appear on the Jericho road, just as they do on the road of life. By examining them we will be able to identify with some of them and perhaps learn some lessons.
The first to demand our attention is the lone man. By common consent the road was open to the public, so this lone man had every right to be on it without fear or hindrance. Each of us has a God-given right to travel the road of life without being hindered or molested. Even though we enjoy various types of companionship along the way, in a sense we are traveling the road of life alone. We will be influenced more or less by family, church, school, coworkers, business, government and some predators, but the final decisions, for the most part, devolve on each of us individually.
As a lone man I have a right to expect non-threatening treatment from all my fellowmen. If any other man finds himself in a circumstance where he feels he must act toward me, he should do only that which helps rather than hinders. This, of course, is also my obligation toward him. A lone man (woman or child) is vulnerable to harm of various kinds, and also to help.
The next characters to appear in this drama of life are the cruel men, the robbers who recognized no God but their animalistic desires. They took advantage of the lone man, stealing his goods, his time and his well-being. The motivation in the hearts of these men was the Satanic principle that "might makes right," or "what’s yours is mine—if I can get it." Such evil men add nothing of value to the lives of the people they contact along the way, but they will take everything they can get by fair means or foul. Their own advantage is their only consideration. They wound, bruise and rob. It may be money, reputation or even characters—they don’t care.
The thieves in the parable probably ambushed the lone man as he came around a blind corner, but some of their counterparts are more sophisticated or subtle in our day. They might feign distress along the freeway, beg a ride to the next town and rob the benefactor en route. Or, they might put out a plea in favor of the "disadvantaged" and ask the government for help, but since the government has nothing to give, it must first steal the funds from its taxpayers. This might even involve a conspiracy between those desiring the aid, the group pleading their cause and the government agents (legislators, etc.). The whole problem may become difficult to sort out, trying to determine just who are the sincere agents and who are the thieves. But the apparent difficulty should not be allowed to obscure the problem: the lone man has been robbed; his freedom and his very life have been threatened. In what we like to call a "free society," can we shrug it off by saying that each man will have to hire his own army or police force? Perhaps we would do better to examine a system that threatens and crushes the individual and rewards thieves and their accomplices.
On the road of life, within the framework of a "Christian" society, there surely must be some protection for the lone man from the depredations of thieves, the "minus" men who would live solely at the expense of others.
On the road to Jericho there were also other men, selfish men who saw the plight of the abused traveler but had no concern for him or the problem. They were religious men too, but their religion—at least as they practiced it—did not consider the misfortunes or even the rights of their fellow human being. They, of course, would never steal from alone traveler in the manner practiced by the bandits, but they didn’t want to get involved. "Tough experience for the poor devil. Should have known better than to be traveling alone. Hope someone moves him off the road."
True Christianity is in the world today, but there are many counterfeits. Many of the alleged followers of Christ occasionally express concern for the plunder taking place along the road of life, but they don’t lift a finger to expose or solve the problem. The New Testament writer, James, is quite blunt in his description of them: "To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (4:17). The attitude of these "zero" men is: "We were not robbed, so it’s no concern of ours. What we have we will keep."
Fortunately, on the road to Jericho, there came another man who was not a disappointment but rather a delightful surprise. He had a pure Christian philosophy: "What is mine is yours, and in your misfortune I will share it." He gave of himself and his means. He was the compassionate, unselfish man. This type is also on the road of life today. Not only would he steal nothing from his fellows, but he adds much to their general welfare.
The Good Samaritan did not wait beside the stricken traveler until another victim came along, beat and plunder him, then give the proceeds to the first victim. He was not a first-century Robin Hood who robbed others to help the poor, but he gave of his own means. He didn’t run for political office as a cover to conduct his robbery "legally," then give to the poor. Jesus certainly pictured him as a concerned man, one who was not content to pass by on the other side as though nothing had happened. He saw a fellow human being in distress, and he visualized himself as part of the solution to the problem. This was a mandate from his conscience to DO SOMETHING. He was not a "minus" man, or even a "zero" man. He was a "plus" man. And Jesus forced his hearer to admit that the Samaritan was motivated by love.
Within the Christian context we are not here to wound, crush, rob or even to ignore. We are here to heal, lift, encourage and contribute of our talent and energy to the end that others too may, if they so desire, enjoy the same blessings we have. This truth has been around long enough to be axiomatic, and Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).