The story of the Good Samaritan has been told and retold for centuries as an example of how to care for others and meet their needs in obedience to Jesus’ command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s a parable – a physical story with a spiritual lesson. While the emphasis is on meeting a person’s physical needs, I believe the greater application is acting in response to the spiritual need for salvation.
A close examination of this parable will teach us how to be “gospel-centered good Samaritans.”
Luke 10:30-37 – “Jesus replied and said, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him and when he saw him, he felt compassion and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’ And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’”
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7 Ways to Be Ready to Meet Others’ Needs
From a gospel perspective, the man lying on the side of the road represents an unbeliever – someone who does not have personal relationship with Jesus. People without Christ are in great need; they have been robbed of the truth and are victims of our enemy’s desire to steal, kill and destroy. The merciful response of the good Samaritan illustrates seven principles we need to incorporate into our lives, so that when we “happen upon” others by God’s sovereign plan, we will be ready to listen to the Holy Spirit as He prompts us to speak and act.
1. We Must See Others with the Eyes of Our Heart
How many times do we pass by people without consciously seeing them? We throw up a hand to wave, or call out “good morning,” but we don’t really take time to see the person. Jesus told His disciples that a heart hardened by unbelief prevented them from having spiritual insight (Mark 8:17-21).
All three of the men in Luke 10 – the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan – saw the man lying by the side of the road. Having hard hearts, the priest and the Levite walked on by unaffected by his plight. They saw superficially. The Samaritan saw his need.
2. We Must Feel Compassion Toward Others
Most likely, the Samaritan had suffered rejection in his own life, so he had personal experiences that moved him to act with compassion. As believers, we must never forget what our condition used to be before we met Christ. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we were “dead in our trespasses and sins.” We lived according to this world, in disobedience to God. We were separated from God and had no hope (Ephesians 2:11-13).
What changed? Someone brought us hope by telling us about Jesus! Remembering our past will cause us to be compassionate for those who are still separated from God and in spiritual need. We will move from simply “seeing” a person’s need, to acting on their behalf, from a heart of compassion.
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3. We Must Make a Personal Touch
The Samaritan bandaged up the man’s wounds and poured oil and wine on his injuries. Very often, meeting the needs of others can be messy. We may have to get our hands dirty. The Samaritan made a personal touch that ministered healing to the injured man.
Jesus illustrates this in Matthew 8:3. Leprosy was the most feared disease in New Testament culture. Lepers were required to live outside the city and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever anyone approached them, so that no one else would be infected or made unclean. Yet Jesus showed such compassion to one leper who asked to be made clean; He reached out His hand and touched him. We know Jesus could heal simply by speaking words, but by deliberately touching this man, He was setting an example for us. We must be willing to make personal touches which can change a life, even when it’s messy or difficult.
4. We Must Give Up Our Own Comfort
The Samaritan was on a journey, with an intended destination. He put the man on his own beast, willing to give up his own comfort, and changed his plans to meet the need at hand.
The apostle Paul is a wonderful example of a man willing to give up all worldly comforts in order to spread the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, he describes the relationship between affliction and comfort, explaining that God expects us to leverage our uncomfortable experiences to bring comfort to others. Paul experienced burdens so harsh that he despaired of life! Yet he used those experiences to comfort and serve the people to whom he was sent to share the gospel. He gave up a comfortable life as an honored Pharisee, trading his position of earthly success for a life spent traveling, tent-making, and preaching. He did what was necessary to care for those who needed to hear about Christ.
Jesus also gave up His comfortable place in heaven, laying aside His glory to bring salvation to us (Philippians 2:1-11). We are called to imitate His attitude. Whether it’s giving up our worldly comforts, or stepping outside of our comfort zone, a gospel-centered good Samaritan is willing to suffer for the sake of proclaiming Christ.
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5. We Must Give Generously
When the Samaritan arrived at the inn, he opened his wallet and covered the expense of the man’s room and board, as well as his own extra expenses incurred by a detour in his journey. He himself took care of the man – bathing and bandaging his wounds, getting food for him to eat, and settling him into a bed to rest. Not only did he pay for the current expenses, but he reached deeper into his pocket and paid for the future care of the man, committing to whatever expense might be incurred until the man was back on his feet. The Samaritan shared what he had. He gave his best. He was willing to invest his own resources to meet the needs.
In Philippians 4:15-19, Paul reminds us of a biblical principle. When we are willing to share our blessings to meet the needs of others, God promises to cover our own needs. The truth is, everything we have belongs to God, and is simply a gift from Him that we are called to steward for His glory and the growth of His kingdom (1 Peter 4:10). A generous heart is a sacrifice to God – a pleasing aroma!
Jesus said that by our standard of measure, it will be measured in return to us, and we should give generously (Luke 6:38). The Samaritan’s generosity is a great illustration that we are also called to give from what we have. We are to give our best, and be willing not only to meet immediate needs, but to invest in others. This applies to physical needs, but also to spiritual needs.
What do you have spiritually, that you can invest in others? What has God done in your life? What has He taught you? What experiences has He brought you through? Just as we are called to share our physical blessings and resources with others, we are also to share our spiritual blessings.
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6. We Must Involve Others
The Samaritan recognized that he could not care for the injured man by himself. He had to continue his journey. He did what was right at the time, meeting the immediate needs of the man, but also gave thought to what would happen to the man after he left. He recruited the help of the innkeeper. He wisely involved others.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9 reminds us that as Christ-followers, we are dependent upon one another. Even though we are one through the Spirit of God who indwells us, we possess different gifts, abilities, talents, and passions. God uses each one of us in different ways, to accomplish His kingdom purposes, and to grow each of us into spiritual maturity. Just as the Samaritan was wise enough to recruit the gifts and resources of the innkeeper to continue the ministry of meeting needs in the injured man’s life, so we are to involve others as we learn to pray for, serve, and share Christ.
7. We Must Be Willing to Show Mercy
Everything the Samaritan did for the injured man can be summed up in this word: mercy. Mercy is showing kindness and favor when it is not earned or deserved. Mercy is given as a gift. It is not giving someone what they may deserve, or what we feel is their “due.” To show mercy is to act in compassion, putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own.
Jesus taught that we receive mercy when we ourselves are merciful (Matthew 5:7). The most merciful thing we can do is be willing to speak the eternal, powerful, life-giving words of the gospel into the hearts and lives of those in spiritual need. As we show mercy in our conversations, our actions, and our deeds, we will present a true picture of God’s love for the unbeliever. Jesus came to show us mercy. Unlike the injured man in the story, we were not left “half dead” – we were spiritually completely dead, unable to restore our spiritual life.
“But God, being rich in mercy…” (Ephesians 2:4). Those words should cause us to look at others with eyes of mercy and compassion and commit to be the gospel-centered good Samaritan they so desperately need.
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Reflect on Your Own Mission
Do you want to be a gospel-centered good Samaritan? There are many organizations and individuals who are great at meeting physical needs, but only Jesus can truly satisfy the spiritual need we all have. Here are some questions for personal reflection as you seek to live a life on mission for the gospel.
Do you really see others?
Do you have compassion for those you meet?
Are you willing to make a personal touch?
What comforts are you willing to sacrifice in order to share the gospel?
Are there any areas where you are unwilling to give generously of your resources, talents, abilities, or time?
Are you open to inviting others to help you, or be “the other person” that comes alongside to help?
Are there any attitudes or actions in which you have been unmerciful towards others?
Ask God which of these areas you need to develop. Pray over these questions and write a prayer of commitment to let God begin to develop these characteristics in you!
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Author Sheila Alewine is a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother of five. She and her husband lead Around The Corner Ministries, which serves to equip Christ-followers to share the gospel where they live, work and play. She has written several devotionals including Just Pray: God’s Not Done With You Yet, Grace & Glory: 50 Days in the Purpose & Plan of God, and her newest one, Open The Gift, as well as Going Around The Corner, a Bible study for small groups who desire to reach their communities for Christ. Their ministry also offers disciple-making resources like One-To-One Disciple-Making in partnership with Multiplication Ministries. Sheila has a passion for God’s Word and shares what God is teaching her on her blog, The Way of The Word. Connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and Instagram.