Recently I have seen a many articles relating the parable of the good samaritan to some of the cultural issues going on in our country. The border crisis, Afghanistan, Covid 19 mandates, masks, vaccines all seem be topics of many of these articles.
The Good Samaritan parable is actually about the religious law and religious attitudes. The context in which this parable is written is a significant framework for this parable. Chapter 10 in the book of Luke starts out with Jesus sending out the 70 to speak the word and heal people. There are some great instructions about helping and healing people that are interesting to read. The 70 saw great success applying the instructions they were given. Jesus taught them about their attitude in light of what they saw:
19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:19-20
Next in Chapter 10, Jesus was questioned by a lawyer who, in that theocratic culture, was a religious leader. Jesus knew that the man was challenging him and responded by putting a question to the lawyer. The Hebrew culture had developed a whole system of laws to hold God’s people to the law. This lawyer was fully aware of the Hebrew law. Jesus shared the parable of the good Samaritan with him and in it, he included a priest and a levite (both religious positions) that had passed by a man who had beaten by robbers. Finally a Samaritan came by and immediately helped the man.
Samaritans were looked down upon in the culture. During the time of the captivity, they had married pagan wives and that was frowned upon of the legalistic religious leaders. Jesus made the point in getting the lawyer to admit who the real neighbor was. The lawyer had wanted some rule to justify himself as to who his neighbor was. Jesus brought out the truth. The good samaritan parable focus is on the lawyer and what Jesus was saying about attitude.
Our attitude is important in everything we do. In the last section of chapter 10 following the samaritan parable, is the story of Martha and Mary which is one of my favorite records (having been at times a Martha and at other times a Mary myself:
38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:38-42
Mary wanted to hear Jesus and what he had to say because she knew what it meant for her life and others with whom she came into contact with. Sometimes we work too hard at doing the right things. We obscure where the greatest treasure lies and is what the greatest reason is for why we do things. Our service to others is very often about what we think we should do for others and then using rules and regs to govern actions. It is really about what God wants us to do for others according to his Word. If you really want to be given the opportunity to genuinely and in a godly way help others, this is the mindset to have! It is a thread that runs through the chapter.