Chapter 4

One Last Question

There is one last question to be asked. And it’s really a question that comes before any of the others. To truly serve like Jesus, we have to ask ourselves, “Do I care?” If Jesus is to be our model for helping people, he must also be our model for how to see people.

This question points to the part of the parable of the Good Samaritan that should give us the most discomfort—the priest and the Levite. These two men not only represented the people to God in the Temple and sacrificial system, more importantly for this story, they represented God to the people. As difficult as it may be to swallow the idea that anyone passed by such explicit and obvious need, when the priest and Levite walked by, it had the weight of God himself simply bypassing the needy. An unimaginable image, one meant to be shocking.

When the priest and Levite walked by, it had the weight of God himself simply bypassing the needy. An unimaginable image.

We all know that they passed by the injured man on the other side of the road. We could talk about how they were trying to stay ritually pure for the sake of their positions. Perhaps they were afraid of a similar fate for themselves should they spend too much time in an obviously dangerous place. Or perhaps they thought the man was already dead and nothing could be done for him.

Whatever the reason for their avoiding someone clearly in need, there is one thing behind each surface reason. They simply did not care enough. They didn’t see sufficient value in the person lying on the road to come to his aid. He wasn’t worth their time. He wasn’t worth their effort or to share their possessions with.

This part of the story is important because it’s easy to be shocked and even offended by the actions of these religious leaders. We’re tempted to say, “Of course I care! I would absolutely help someone who is in need.” But Jesus includes these two characters to show that it is not only possible not to care, it’s perhaps even likely that we will not care. Two of the three passed by the man in need. And we’ll offer many of the same excuses that have been suggested for why the priest and the Levite did not stop.

To help people like Jesus, we need to begin seeing them as Jesus saw them. Jesus saw and acted on the inherent value of people as being created in the image of God. It was not their particular choices or specific life circumstances that dictated how Jesus responded to people—at least not in a negative way. Jesus saw people in their moments of need, even if those needs were created by their own choices, and he had compassion on them.

We are surrounded by needs of many kinds. Are we willing to see the needy around us the way God sees them? Are we willing to follow Jesus’s lead, his actions and his teachings, to meet people with love and compassion no matter where they are or how they got there? Will we go the extra mile?