THE GOOD SAMARITAN’S CHOICE
(Verse 34b: …He put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.)
What was it that made the Good Samaritan stop and help that poor beaten man on the side of the road (Luke 10:25-37)? The Bible does not say that he knew the man, and, whoever beat up the man on the road might still be lurking nearby behind some rocks waiting for their next victim. Common sense, safety, and self-interest were all on the side of passing by on the other side of the road, which is just what the first two travelers had done. Why did this man stop?
Jesus tells us very little in this parable about the man’s possible motives, saying only that ‘he took pity on him.’ This is a parable not about thinking the right thing, or even about believing the right thing. There are certainly other parts of the Bible that talk about those things. But this parable is about simply choosing to do the right thing. “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?” was the question that prompted the parable. “DO THIS and you will live,” said Jesus after telling the man to love God with him whole heart, mind, and soul, and to love his neighbor as himself. Then, after the questioner asked ‘Just who is my neighbor,’ Jesus told this parable. It is the story of three men, each who made a choice. Two men chose to do the wrong thing and ignore a man in need, and a third man who chose to do the right thing and go out of his way to help a stranger in need. Jesus then said we should “Go and do likewise.”
The words of Moses to the people in Deuteronomy 30 are also all about choosing, and about the consequences of our choices. In verses 15-18 Moses, near the end of his life, said to the people on the verge of finally entering the promised land:
I set before you today life and prosperity, or death and destruction. For I command you to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; for then you will live and increase, and the Lord will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and to worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.
Sometime later, Joshua, the man who followed Moses and led the people into the promised land, repeated the challenge. After they were settled on the land, and when Joshua was near the end of his life, he said to the people, “Choose this day whom you shall serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
There are big and little choices. Children make choices every day, but the consequences are usually short term. Should I tell the truth or tell a lie? Should I clean my room as I was told or should I continue to play and see if someone else does it? Should I hit my little brother, or should I just tell my mom that he used his color crayons on the walls in my room? These are small choices with short term consequences, except that in even those small choices, patterns begin to emerge, and character is being formed. Lying might become a habit, or, hitting and anger might become the way to deal with everything. On the other hand, the child might begin to learn that honesty is indeed the best policy, or that hard work and diligence brings its own rewards.
Before long there are bigger choices with lifelong consequences. Should I go to work or go to college? Should I take this job or prepare for that career? Should I marry this one, or are there too many red flags in the relationship? Choices are made and lives are set, and this is done on the basis of previous patterns of deciding and choosing. We don’t need Moses or Joshua to tell us that choices are important.
But we do need Moses and Joshua and Jesus and the rest of the Bible to put before us that most important choice of all, the choice of who we will ultimately believe in and who we will serve. Moses said, “I set before you today life and prosperity, or death and destruction.” And Joshua said, “Choose this day whom you shall serve; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” That is the most important choice of all, that choice has not only long term consequences for this life, but also for the eternal life which God offers beyond this world and this life.
In the meantime, there are those day to day choices, and in those too we must be faithful. The Bible tells us that our ultimate decision and choices about God and eternity will influence all those other, day to day, choices in our lives in the here and now. (continued…)
Luke 10:25 — On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke 10:36-37 — (Jesus said), “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Joshua 24:15 — (Joshua said), “…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Grant, O Lord, that what we have said with our lips, we may believe in our hearts and practice in our lives; and of thy mercy keep us faithful unto the end; for Christ’s sake. Amen. –John Hunter