It’s Wednesday, also known as Hump Day. Do you need to get over the hump? Here’s a quick prayer to help you finish this week strong!
Occasionally, at the end of Sunday service, my pastor announces to the congregation that our assignment for the week is to be kind to someone. This shouldn’t be a hard task, given that it is written clear as day in the Bible.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)
Unfortunately for some people, you’d think they’d just been told to drive a six inch nail through their eye. Would it kill you to lend someone a kind word as you pass them in the hallway? To at least give them a twinkle of a smile?
As we continue to investigate what we must do to inherit eternal life, I invite you to turn to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
“‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. “How do you read it?'” (Luke 10:25-26, NIV)
When a so-called “expert” in the law attempts to trap Jesus with the age-old question, Jesus turns it around on him by asking him to interpret the Law. He responds with the two greatest commandments, on which all the Law hangs (Matthew 22:34-40): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself,” to which Jesus says, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:27-28).
Of course, the irony of it is that he hasn’t been doing this at all. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law has a nasty little habit of thinking only about themselves. They tote their own self-righteousness in front of the people, but they are just as evil as they come (Matthew 23:2-4). They make the word of God void by instituting their own human traditions (Mark 7:13). They are more focused on getting rich than enriching the kingdom of God (Matthew 21:12-13). Hypocrites, blind guides, brood of vipers—these are just a few of the horrible names Jesus calls them in Matthew 23. To make matters worse, despite being experts on the Law, they don’t even recognize Jesus as the Messiah, whom the Scriptures are written about (John 5:39-40). Blind guides indeed!
Not wanting to be bested, however, the expert comes back with another sly question: “And who is my neighbor?” To this, Jesus gives him the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, a man on a journey is attacked by robbers. They beat him, they strip him of his clothes, and they leave him for dead. Twice he is passed by, once by a priest, and again by a Levite, who would be like a religious leader for Israel. The interesting thing is that they both passed by on the other side of the road (Luke 10:31-32), which means they went out of their way to avoid helping this poor man.
But one person stopped. A Samaritan. Now, the Jews hated the Samaritans. They viewed them as half-breeds (half-Jewish, half-Gentile) and wanted no association with them. This should not go unnoticed that Jesus uses a Samaritan in this parable.
The Samaritan stops to help the man. He cleans and dresses his wounds. He puts him on his donkey and takes him to an inn to further aid him. He pays the innkeeper for any extra expense he may incur for caring for the man. While the first two go out of their way to leave him dying, the Samaritan goes above and beyond to save his life.
Again, Jesus steps all over this expert’s toes, and all over his pride. He asks the expert which of the three was a neighbor to the man, and unwilling to acknowledge the Samaritan, whom he would view as beneath him, the expert answers, “The one who had mercy on him.” Of course, we all know who that one is.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7
When reading about the Good Samaritan, I can’t help but to go to Matthew 25, when Jesus talks about the coming Day of Judgement. On this day, all the people will be gathered together before His throne, and He will separate the sheep (righteous) from the goats (wicked), putting the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
And to the sheep He will say:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:34-36
On the contrary, He will say to the goats:
“Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” Matthew 25:41-43
Both will ask, “Lord, when did we [not] do those things for you?” And He will promptly answer, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did [not do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did [not do] for me” (Matthew 25:37-40, 44-45).
And so the goats, or the wicked, will “go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). A truly telling visual if ever there was one.
Putting this in the context of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite, did not only leave a poor beaten man on the side of the road for dead, they left Jesus. Surely someone who would willfully turn away from the one way to heaven (John 14:6) would never inherit the kingdom. But how many of us are leaving Jesus when we ignore the people who need our help the most? The single mother who comes to Wednesday night Bible study just so her kids can get a free meal; the homeless veteran on the side of the road holding the sign, “Will work for food”; the co-worker you saw crying in the bathroom that you didn’t say a word to.
God says in Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” The New Living Translation (NLT) says, “I want you to show love…” Sometimes we get so caught up in church matters, fighting the good fight, doing ministry work, focusing on our own salvation, or on the 99 that are still in the church rather than the one who’s wandered off, that we forget the simplest gesture. The second greatest commandment instructs us to love our neighbors. Jesus says that by our love will the world recognize us as His followers (John 13:35).
So are we showing love to our neighbors, or are we going out of our way to avoid making their problems our problems to solve?
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36
The golden rule, which most of us learned in school—Treat others the way you want to be treated—is very similar to the Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” especially when it comes to our relationship with others and with God. Looking back at Ephesians 4:32, notice that the second part of that verse says that we must forgive each other, “just as in Christ God forgave you.” Likewise, 1 Peter 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” This is the mercy God has given us: new life through Jesus Christ, surely we can provide that same mercy to our beaten and wounded brothers and sisters, whether it’s through preaching the gospel, offering a helping hand, inviting them to church, praying for them, etc.
Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God “as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Imitate the love and mercy of God in your actions toward others this week. For how can we expect to receive such precious gifts from God, when we can’t even give them to the people we see every day?
“There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” James 2:13 (NLT)
Hump Day Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to be merciful. Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love them as you love them. It is written in your word that if anyone sees the good they ought to do and does not do it, then it is sin for them. Father, please forgive us for all those times we ignored a friend in need. Fill us with the fruit of your Spirit, love, kindness, goodness, gentleness. Fill us with the same compassion as your Son, Jesus Christ, as he died on the cross, so that we may go above and beyond to help others in need, treating them as if they were angels in disguise, or you yourself. This will bring us even closer to receiving eternal life in your kingdom. And it’s in Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.