When I was in kindergarten, many years ago, for a program my class presented the story of The Good Samaritan. I got the coveted role of the man who was beaten and left for dead. As well as I remember, they discouraged my “moaning and groaning” as I tried to demonstrate my acting skills. I have been familiar with this story for a long time.
Because the story is so familiar, we often forget what I call the bookends, that is what prompted Jesus to tell the story and the understanding and reaction of the one to whom the story was told. A man wanted to know what he must do to live forever with God. To test how well the man knew God and how God wants us to live, Jesus asked him the following question:
“What do the commandments say?” The man answered, “The commandments say you should love God with everything you have. And you should love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” Jesus replied, “That’s the right answer! Live like this and you’ll live with God forever.”
Then the man asked Jesus, “Who’s my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling the story of The Good Samaritan. After having told the story, Jesus asked the man,
“Which of the three men was a neighbor to the man who was hurt? The man replied, “The one who stopped to help him. Jesus told him, “God wants us to help everyone. People of every size, shape, and color and from every country are important to God. Now, go and be like the Samaritan and help everyone who needs help.”
What we discover is that the man knew how God wanted him to live and he learned who his neighbors are. The real problem is between knowing what to do and doing it. If we wish to live with God forever, we need to obey the commandments and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Lord Jesus, we thank You for wonderful stories You told that teach us how to live. Our problem is not that we do not know what we should do, but that we fail to do it. Help us to be “Good Samaritans” to those in need and thereby to show our love for neighbors. First and foremost, though, let us love You with our entire being. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.