The Good Samaritan story is a parable that Jesus tells (in Luke 10:25-37) in response to the lawyer’s question to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” The story has three life philosophies, the Takers (the robbers), the Keepers (the religious men), and the Givers (the Samaritan). Most people read this tale through the eyes of an American (because that’s who we are); however, the tale Jesus shares was told to a Jewish group. We use the idea of being a “good Samaritan” based on Jesus’ story. Franklin Graham uses Samaritan in his ministry Samaritan’s Purse. We’ve lost who the Samaritans were in the eyes of the Jew.
Some background will help shine the light on the situation. There are some baggage between the Jews and the Samaritans. Samaritans and Jews did not see eye to eye on anything; in fact they despised each other. A Jew wouldn’t even travel through Samaria. They would go the long way around to avoid even stepping a foot in this country. The reason for this tension can be seen in the Old Testament. When the Kingdom of Israel was split, Samaria became the capitol of Israel and Jerusalem was capitol of Judea. The northern country of Israel had 10 tribes and the southern country Judea had 2 tribes. God judged Israel harder than Judea because not one Israelite king was good (all their kings were evil in the eyes of God the Bible says). Judea was reestablished by God (in Ezra and Nehemiah) after they we were defeated by Babylon. When Israel was taken over by Assyria (see 2 Kings 17), it was never again its own country; the Assyrian army only took the best of the people and left the rest behind. Those that were left behind started to marry people other than those of Israel decent. The Samaritans became mixed blood so Jews saw them as being lower than they were. Samaritans were the outcasts in Jewish society.
Commentators think that the victim Jesus is speaking about is a Jewish man. This Samaritan was willing to risk his life, give of his time, and of his money for a person that in any other day wouldn’t even spit on him even if he were on fire. The idea of being a “neighbor” is saying that each person isequal. Jesus told this lawyer that Samaritans were equal to Jews in the eyes of God which would rock his world and his worldview at this part of Jewish history. I think that the central theme of this story is that we are all equal in the sight of God and because we are equal, we must be willing treat others as we would want to be treated.
Samaritans were seen as outcasts in Jewish society; however, Jesus made it a point to say in Acts 1:8 that His disciples were to go to Samaria. With is in mind, we are to reach out to those who are different than we; to reach out to the outcasts; the overlooked people (single parents, substance addictives (i.e. drugs, alcohol, etc.), gangbangers, those of a different race, person with a different political view, and/or poor/rich). Think about how you can reach an overlooked person.