Many people put a limit on their compassion. They may believe that acts of charity begin, and end, at home. They may be satisfied with giving set amounts of money or time to select causes. But this parable below teaches that compassion is not something that can be switched on or off.
The Samaritan could have felt justified in continuing his journey once he had dressed the victim’s wounds. Instead, he took him to an inn and paid for his stay.
A Compassionate Traveller
Luke 10:24 – 37
A man was traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by bandits, who robbed him and left him half dead. A priest and a Levite, or temple official, saw him lying there but passed by on the other side of the road. In contrast, a Samaritan — a man from Samaria in northern Palestine, stopped, looked after him, and took him to an inn. It was this Samaritan, Jesus suggested, who acted in the way a neighbour should.
In the ancient world, a line was often drawn between those who were considered “insiders” and those who were “outsiders”. In Israel, for example, it was permissible to charge a “foreigner” interest, but not your “brother”. Who was or was not a brother or neighbour or foreigner, was therefore of some financial importance. Also, at the time of Jesus, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, and Samaritans together shared the land of Israel with the Jews. So the lawyer was probably genuinely curious as to whom Jesus would classify as a neighbour.
Those who heard Jesus’ story would have recognized the situation described. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously dangerous. Jerusalem lies more than 650 feet (200m) above sea level, and the road drops steeply in its 35 mile (55 km) descent to Jericho, which is situated 820 feet (250m) below sea level. The road passes through wild, rocky, unpopulated country. Anyone left badly injured along the way would have had little hope of survival unless help happened to come quickly.