What if the Good Samaritan hadn’t been able to help?

Van Gogh Good Samaritan Question

I’ve been meditating on this Van Gogh painting based on the story of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus in the Bible (Luke 10). I’m grateful for the book ‘Shades of light’ by Sharon Garlough Brown for bringing it to my attention.

In the parable, bandits set upon a traveller, robbing him and leaving him for dead. Two religious elites walk by and ignore the traveller’s plight, but then a Samaritan comes across him. Samaritans were outsiders and usually ostracised by the Jews, yet only the Samaritan stopped to help the wounded traveller. In the painting, you see the Good Samaritan lifting the man onto his horse, and in his narrative, Jesus tells us the Samaritan then takes the maimed man to an inn. The Good Samaritan pays for all his bills until he is well again. The message is clear: we are to be like the Good Samaritan and help those we come across who are in need.

Like most people, I want to identify with the Good Samaritan and help those in difficult circumstances. However, I fear I am more like the religious elites and often ignore the desperate.

Even when I do try to help, it’s not always easy.

I’m thinking of three particular circumstances that I’m facing in which my help doesn’t seem enough. Maybe you are also facing similar problems. In one instance, the charity I run, WWR, has been fighting a legal case for 18 months and getting nowhere; in another, my advice seems to be falling on deaf ears, and in the last instance, WWR simply doesn’t have the capacity to help someone with a specific need right now.

If I were the Good Samaritan, it’s as if:
I’m too weak to lift the traveller onto my horse.
The innkeeper won’t accept my money.
My horse is already carrying an injured traveller; it can’t bear another.

My attempts to help are failing.

So what would the Good Samaritan do?

There are solutions to all these problems if other people help. Perhaps one of the priests could turn round, come back and assist the Samaritan in lifting the traveller onto the horse. If the priest has a horse, it could carry a second injured person. Similarly, the innkeeper might be willing to accept money from one of the religious elites rather than from the unclean Samaritan.

The Good Samaritan doesn’t necessarily have to do everything to help on his own; it’s not too late for the priests to turn back and be of assistance.

The same is true for us. Whether we feel helpless and overwhelmed like the Good Samaritan or callous like the religious elites, we can still aid the maimed traveller. We may need to ask others to assist us, or perhaps we must return to a difficult situation. Can we roll up our sleeves and join those already helping? Opportunities to help abound. Since every one of us is part of the body of Christ, we can complement the work of each other. We are not alone; the people around us are not just ours to save, and Jesus invites us to be part of His church. In the messy situations you face, what do you need to do next?


DislocatedChristians exists to create and support a community of like-minded people. My prayer is that you’ll find some echoes of your questions about international church and culture in these pieces, and it will encourage you to know others have the same thoughts. Please like, comment on or share my articles if you’ve found them helpful. I’d be immensely grateful if you could follow me; click towards the bottom of the page.

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Just as we are each a work in progress, so too is DislocatedChristians. Sometimes I’ll get things wrong, and I hope you’ll forgive me and continue to stick around when that happens.

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