hard – and worth it.
when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper
In the course of less than half-a-day, the Samaritan had the courage to walk up to a total stranger who was in trouble, used his personal store of oil and wine to clean this stranger’s wounds, bound the stranger’s wounds with his cloths, gave up his ride to let this stranger ride, took the stranger to an inn where he took care of him – meaning he fed him, kept him company, and assisted the stranger in every way he needed (consider he was likely taking care of the stranger’s bathroom needs too), and then having to leave, took from his own money and offered that too. He also pledged to come back again and make up any difference. These things cost, and pretty dearly. Beyond the outright cost of oil, wine, bandages, rides, a place to stay, and two days wages ($405 average in New York as of today), the Samaritan lost at least a day’s business. This little escapade – helping the stranger – likely cost the Samaritan at least $1,000 in today’s money.
Interestingly, economists have spent a lot of time and effort in studying Jesus’ parable. Jesus isn’t just for philosophers, theologians, and clergy anymore. “The Good Samaritan and Traffic on the Road to Jericho” by Ted Bergstrom studies situations where people encounter an unsatisfactory state of affairs and must decide whether or not to act or leave it for someone else.
Bottom line, the question of “Who is my neighbor?” involves estimating the cost and deciding on whether it is worthwhile or not. It is sad that we still ask this question, still count the cost. Look at the News or social media and we see debate – who is my neighbor? Many want what the lawyer wanted – that some people are not. The immigrant is not, the person with the different skin tone is not. The person whose religious beliefs are different or who has no religious beliefs is not. No, according to God we must be neighbor to all. We must act.
The stranger was hurt by violence and neglect. He was saved by one who saw him as neighbor. Jesus, the Samaritan, touched the unclean, went to the lost, outcast, and those in need. Jesus spent it all – far more than $1,000 – His very life – to save His neighbors.
What does it look like to love someone, to act? Is anyone off limits? Is any cost too high? Is any mile too far? Are there boundaries? Jesus’ answer to the lawyer in us is that we must have no boundaries or limits. We have been touched by complete love. Our response is to act, to pay it all, and to find complete joy and satisfaction in loving like Jesus.