Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 250
June 16, 1997

The Good Samaritan Revisited


I expressed my appreciation to the speaker for his challenging sermon and then added, "But, I don't believe the Parable of the Good Samaritan says what you made it out to say." Instantaneously, his warm smile faded into incredulity, followed by a dismissal only heretics on their way to the fire could have appreciated. Another person to whom I expressed my insight replied, "You're being so picky." With such encouragement, I persist.

The message of the Parable of the Good Samaritan that I and others have continously preached is that we are to help our neighbor--our neighbor being anyone in need.

That's the answer the interrogating lawyer wanted, "And who is my neighbor?" But, Jesus shifted the discussion by asking, "Who proved to be the neighbor to the one on the side of the road?" Jesus made the neighbor a subject, not an object; he turned from examining neighbor as the object of our charity to having us look in a mirror to ask ourselves: am I a neighbor?

As long as neighbor remains an object, we can make distinctions between the 'worthy' and 'unworthy' recipients of our charity. As long as 'neighbor' is an object, we can decide whether or not to help another person. Such distinctions are no longer possible, Jesus says.

Once a wrong idea gets ingrained it becomes almost impervious to change. And it is not just religion in which such obstinacy is found. Niels Bohr, the great twentieth-century physicist, once said that to get a revolutionary scientific idea accepted one generation must first die off.

Jesus' question, "Who proved to be the neighbor to the person by the side of the road?" is directed at each of us. Picky? Perhaps. But with the self-examination the Parable requires, its popularity is much less certain.


--Robert H. Tucker
9 June 1997


© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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