The Good Samaritan: Pedigree vs. Actions

February 2, 2017

Categories: Love

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of the Good Samaritan, because it completely flips the script on what people think is important. Here is the passage:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).

The big contrast in this story is between the priest and the Levite on one hand, and the Samaritan on the other hand. Priests and Levites were important religious people in that day. The priests were in charge of offering sacrifices on behalf of the people. The Levites assisted the priests in their duties. Both were highly respected. Their pedigree was impeccable.

Samaritans were pretty much the opposite. The Samaritans were a racially mixed society that had both Jewish and Pagan ancestry. They followed only the first five books of the Bible, and their temple was in a different place than the Jews. The Jews disliked the Samaritans and looked down on them. In fact, when traveling, Jews would take a detour to avoid passing through Samaritan territory.

In the story, you would expect the priest and Levite would help the man who was robbed. But instead, the opposite happens. The priest and Levite don’t help at all, and pass by the man on the other side of the road. The Samaritan, however, has mercy on the man. The Samaritan stops and helps the man, and uses his own money to care for the man. The Samaritan, not the priest or Levite, is used as the example of what it means to love God, love others, and inherit eternal life.

You might think your pedigree and background is important, but Jesus says it’s not. The thing that counts is your actions. Loving others and showing mercy is what matters.

Depending on your pedigree and background, this story can either be humbling or comforting. If you are proud of your pedigree (maybe your dad was a pastor), this story should be humbling. God doesn’t care about your background—the important thing is whether your heart expresses love through your actions. But if you come from a difficult background or family, this story should be comforting. God doesn’t care about your background—the thing that counts is what you do and how you love people today.


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  1. […] that reflected a deeper truth about human nature or God. We wouldn’t be upset to learn that the story of the Good Samaritan wasn’t historically true—that isn’t the point of a parable. But there are other aspects of […]

  2. Who is My Neighbor? - Joshua Hook December 17, 2018 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    […] of my favorite stories in the Bible is the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t heard it before, Jesus is talking with another religious leader about what you […]

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