PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is the most familiar parable of Christ. It’s a story that emphasizes several salient truths. Some scholars believe it’s more than fiction and contend its contents are factual. In fact, those who have toured the Holy Land may have seen the Israeli guides point to the ruins of the Inn Jesus alluded to in the parable.
(Transition) It’s unimportant whether this story is fact or fiction, what is significant is the lesson Jesus taught from this parable. And Jesus used this story to expose three attitudes that were displayed toward someone with a need. I want to take a few minutes to discuss these attitudes. Let’s begin by investigating the attitude of the thieves.
I. The Attitude of the Thieves
Notice what verse thirty-one reveals about the thieves when they attacked their victim. Luke says, “They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” These men were obviously hostile thugs without any regard for human life. To them others were simply objects of exploitation and gain. I know most people wouldn’t fit into this group. By nature, most people aren’t brute beasts that run in gangs and look for unsuspecting people to batter. However, humans can be guilty of injuring others in many different ways. We can scheme or sow seeds of discord; we can malign someone or take advantage of their naivety. But whatever form it comes in—whether it’s violence or craftiness—we must not forget that God will not hold us guiltless. So what was the sin of these thieves? What sin was lurking in the hearts of these men that moved them to such brutality? It was covetousness! The thieves’ attitude was, “If others have what I want, then it’s mine for the taking”!
- Covetous people aren’t willing to labor to achieve success they will prey upon the weaknesses of others to seize what doesn’t belong to them.
A covetous attitude says: “This is a greed-filled world, so I have to devour what I can before someone else devours what I have.”
A covetous attitude says: “Let others work then I’ll step in and take over.”
A covetous attitude asserts: “It doesn’t matter whose idea it is, if I can seize it, I have the potential and personality to make it work.”
Listen to what God says about a cunning, covetousness spirit in Proverbs 21:6: “A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.” Did you hear that? Wrongly-gained wealth is not only as fleeting as a mist, God says it is a “deadly snare”! People who lie, cheat, and swindle are walking closer to the grave than they could ever imagine. Zechariah 5:3 says: “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land . . . every thief will be banished . . . everyone who swears falsely will be banished.”
(Illustration) (Tell of my grandfather (Clyde A. Pace) inventing the “kick-stand” on the bycycle in the 1900s and how someone embezzled his ideas.)
Folks, if an idea isn’t yours don’t steal it!
(Transition) Secondly, I want to note the attitude of the Priest and Levite.
II. The Attitude of the Priest and Levite
Look at verses 31-32: “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.” What an indictment against this priest and Levite. They “passed by on the other side.” As you read this verse you understand exactly the charge Jesus levels against these smug religious people: It’s cold-hearted indifference! And they are as sinful as the thieves! While they are not as brutal; they are still guilty. One group abuses while the other group ignores. And indifference is what Christians, filled with Christ’s love, desperately need to guard against. There are times when human nature urges us to scramble away from somebody that just doesn’t measure up to our standard; and yet, these hurting people are the very ones Jesus tells us not to avoid. In fact, God tells us to pursue them!
Christ Authenticates His Ministry
Do you remember how Jesus authenticated His ministry to John the Baptist when John had His doubts about the Lord? John was locked up in prison and he sent his disciples to Christ saying: “Are you really the Christ or should we look for another”?
Notice the message that Jesus returned to John. “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Luke 7:22). In essence, Jesus said, “John, here is proof I’m the Messiah. I am pursuing lowly, hungry, burdened, needy people.” That’s what Jesus was all about. He pursued people who didn’t look right, live right or smell right. He touched lepers, encouraged the lonely, and loved dreadfully guilty sinners.
I don’t know the reasons the Priest and Levite used to justify their indifference, but they missed their opportunity to share God’s love. Christ doesn’t save us and then seek to insulate us from the world. He wants us sanctified from the world’s contagion but He doesn’t want us isolated from people. He told us to “go into all the world with the Gospel.” He wants us ministering to hurting people. And we can help others in the simplest of ways.
(Illustration) (Tell of helping an elderly lady find her car at a mall. I had just prayed, “Lord, make me a blessing.” If we are going to pray to be a blessing, we must be willing to seize the opportunities God gives us.)
The Bible says the day is coming when God will gather people from every tribe, nation, and every generation to stand before His Judgment Seat. Do you know one of the chief indictments that will be leveled against unbelievers? It will be indifference! The Bible says Jesus will say to those standing at His left: “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me” (Matthew 25:42-43).
These people plainly perceived the problem but were indifferent to it. Authentic Christianity is when God’s people identify needs and, like the Good Samaritan, offer help. If we’re going to adorn the name “Christian” we must do more than sing and testify about God’s love. We must roll up our sleeves, enter the arena of suffering, and help others. The Bible says love is kind, compassionate, and giving. And that describes action. Love is always connected with action. That’s what Jesus demonstrated when He lived on earth and that’s why He said in Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Transition) Now let’s look at the Good Samaritan’s attitude and how he responded to this situation. Here is a man that displayed the proper attitude toward hurting people.
III. The Attitude of the Good Samaritan
I have tried to imagine what might have gone through the Good Samaritan’s mind when he saw this assaulted man and it might have been something like this: “God’s providence has brought me before this injured man, therefore, I’ll do what I can to assist in whatever way is necessary.” So he bandaged his wounds, poured on the oil and wine, placed the man on his donkey, and brought him to the nearest inn for recovery. And it didn’t stop there. He not only paid the innkeeper to make certain the man convalesced; he offered to reimburse whatever additional expenses would be incurred. You see, authentic Christianity sees the need, is moved with compassion, and then translates compassion into action.
There are three attitudes in this story. There are takers of mercy, talkers of mercy, and givers of mercy.
- The thieves were takers of mercy, in that their covetousness led them to take what was not rightfully theirs.
The priest and Levite were talkers of mercy. Oh, they could articulate and illustrate it, but they couldn’t personally demonstrate it. They knew the Old Testament Hebrew words for mercy and could parse the meanings. But they didn’t get beyond that because they were just talkers of mercy.
But then there was the Good Samaritan. And here was the giver of mercy. People like this are ready to help regardless of how it might affect their reputation.
(Illustration) The story is told of a photographer working for a Christian journal. The editor commissioned him to photograph someone that characterized the destitute condition of humanity. After a great deal of searching the photographer captured the perfect picture. From a shadowed alley he spotted a beggar pleading for food. The beggar lay stretching from his side toward a grocery store that displayed freshly baked bread. The photographer got into position and excitedly snapped the picture. Moments later he rushed the picture to his editor. The editor agreed that it perfectly depicted humanity’s misery. After congratulating the photographer the editor peered deeply into his eyes and asked: “And what assistance did you give the beggar after the photograph?” With a twist of discomfort the photographer timidly confessed that he had done nothing. The editor responded: “You got the picture but you didn’t get the message.”
Does this story describe some of your missed opportunities? The Parable of the Good Samaritan shows the strategy Christians should employ. It’s a strategy of love, mercy, and compassion. The Samaritan wasn’t pressured or coerced to minister; he didn’t assist the man because the television cameras were rolling; there was no earthly gain this Samaritan could accrue. No, the Samaritan offered assistance because he truly loved others.
This familiar story force us to admit where we are in life. Are you like the thieves who beat up the man, or are you like the Priest and Levite who passed up the man, or are you like the Good Samaritan who helped up the man? Henry Ford said: “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” So true! In order to build a reputation, you must act!