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6 pointers on how to be a good Samaritan

Kids disaster
Creative Commons: Unicef

What does it look like to be a good neighbor?

Some of the last posts have been on the topic of a simple/organic/house church response to disaster. Are we ready?

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 speaks into what disaster relief might look like. Jesus was asked the question, "Who is my neighbor?" The answer becomes obvious through the parable. However, there is more to learn:

  1. The person the Samaritan helped was a stranger
  2. The man was in crisis–he had just been robbed and beaten
  3. The Samaritan helped those that others ignored
  4. He provided medicine (oil and wine and bandages)
  5. He took care of his physical needs for shelter and food
  6. He helped financially

Helping strangers who are in crisis often opens the door to providing spiritual help too.

How can we be more involved?




9 replies on “6 pointers on how to be a good Samaritan”

I belong to an Email group called Freecycle. Members enter items they would be taking to the trash that others might want and also enter items they are looking for. Typical items: furniture, clothing, household appliances… Sometimes God nudges me to contact by email one of the requesters and offer to fill the need if they don’t receive one through freecycle… Sometimes you don’t have to leave home to help a stranger!

Hi Felicity and Friends,
On the topic of being a “Good Samaritan” there are a million practical ideas that could be applied by individuals and simple/organic churches. Anything from free bicycle repair, to helping at soup kitchens, to handing out sandwiches to homeless folks, to participating in walkathons for cancer research, and so on. And there is no shortage of movements and events inside and outside the Church that have become well-known for such things, such as the Salvation Army, the Catholic Worker movement, World Vision, Oxfam, and Live Aid. There list of possibilities is endless. And these are all good things, some of which I have participated in myself.
But, I do believe in maintaining a priority on evangelism. All of us have physical needs which God is deeply concerned about, but our ultimate need is to encounter Christ. The early church prioritized evangelism with the main outcome being salvations, with bonus outcomes of physical healings, demonic deliverances, and material support for the poor and afflicted (Acts 2:41-47, 5:12, 5:42, 8:5-8).
When the Church has emphasized the “social gospel” and minimized repentance and faith in Christ, it has eventually become less effective in seeing people experience total life transformation. The so-called liberal mainstream churches, some segments of the Catholic church, and “rice Christians” on the mission field are good examples.
Yet, when a simple proclamation of the gospel has been the priority (combined with appropriately meeting people’s physical needs), then there is a healthier outcome of both spiritual and physical needs being met. The early Methodists, the early Salvation Army, the early Franciscans, and India’s modern house church movement are good examples.
For good reads on this, I recommend Dr. Samuel Hugh Moffett’s article “Evangelism: The Leading Partner”, in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 2004, pp.575-577, and Dr. David Lim’s article “Church at the Frontiers: Transformation through Church Planting Movements, Community Development, and Tentmakers” in the Starfish Files, Summer 2009,

The ideas are good but the story of the Good Samaritan doesn’t mean this. The Good Samaritan is simply Jesus-Christ who come to save us, when the religion and the Law are unable to save.
The last question of Jesus clearly reveal this: He ask who is the neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers.
The early Church understood this parable this way and not like a call to imitate the Good Samaritan.

The motto of the early Salvation Army was “Soup, Soap and Salvation”. Not bad, really. Think of it as 18th century “holistic evangelism” which addressed the whole person. The present day SA is working to recover their roots.
Good deeds done in the name of Jesus serve at least a couple of vital purposes. First, they represent “Kingdom Seed” sown in the lives of others. How do we expect to reach the darkest corners of our communities if we are personally unwilling to sow kingdom seed there. If we reap what we sow, we might want to do more sowing of the kingdom seed of good deeds. Second, good deeds represent serving others in terms they need and understand in the hope of engaging them in a conversation regarding spiritual things WE understand. Why did Jesus heal? Maybe it was to serve those in need in terms they could understand. How many of those Jesus healed later became believers or disciples? We don’t know. Third, good deeds serve the purpose of fulfilling our obedience to Jesus’ admonitions in Matthew 25 regarding service to “the least of these”.

Dear Desire,
I notice your comment about the interpretation of the Good Samaritan story with a “spiritualized” meaning, ie. the Good Samaritan was Jesus Christ. There is no direct evidence from the New Testament that the early believers understood it in this way. The plain meaning is the plain meaning, since the last thing Jesus said to his hearers about it was “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:37). According to your suggestion, then Jesus is saying to his listeners that they are to act in the place of Christ? No! The Early Church Fathers (many of whom subscribed to the Alexandrian school of biblical interpretation) may have seen it in a “spiritualized” sense, but their testimony is of secondary importance. I welcome your response.

Rad, I agree. We can do humanitarian work–feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison etc., but unless people know it is the King that we serve, it will remain just good works. But if we can do the two hand-in-hand, we have endless opportunity to point people to Jesus.
It reminds me of a story Tony (my husband) likes to tell. In his early days as an intern, had a patient who he managed to resuscitate from a cardiac arrest, and subsequently had to spend much time with him. When it was time for the patient to leave hospital, the man gave him a gift for me–a beautiful purse exactly the same as one he had made for the Queen. (I still have it!) But as he said goodbye to him, the Lord spoke to Tony. He said, “Mr. Smith thinks you’re wonderful. In fact, everyone here thinks you’re wonderful. The only problem is that they don’t know the reason why. I am the Lord. My glory I give to no other.” From that time onwards, Tony determined that he would take every opportunity he could to share the Lord with his patients, and over the years, led hundreds of them to the Lord.
Good works open the door to preach the Gospel. Whether or not people respond, we continue with the good works, but they soften people’s hearts in a remarkable way.

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