Studying The Sweet Samaritan

Neal Pollard

Jesus wants us concerned with people, especially those near us in some way.  It may be easier to care about someone who looks like us, who is decent or even attractive, or who is easier to help.  The unattractive, strange, dissimilar, or unpleasant may not be ones we are as easily drawn to assist.  That is why Jesus’ teaching on who our neighbor is ought to be convicting and persuasive.  Luke 10:30-37 records the infamous lesson of the good Samaritan.  Here is what the text reveals about this story.

The parable reveals a problem (30).  Someone is hurt and in need and can do nothing for himself.  It is an observable problem, as the text will reveal.

The parable reveals three pedestrians (31-33), a priest, a Levite, and the Samaritan.  The first two do nothing to help the hurting man, but the Samaritan is moved to provide assistance. The priest was passive, the Levite paused, but the Samaritan pitied.

The parable reveals a proper performance (34-35).  It is seen in what he felt—compassion. It is seen in what he did—came to him, bandaged him, soothed him, carried him, cared for him, and supported him.

The parable reveals a proof (36). Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor…?”  The answer did not depend on how long they were followers of God, how much they knew, or how much influence they had in the community.  The proof was in the performance, as revealed in the previous two verses.

The parable reveals the point (37).  The point of the parable is to prove to be a good neighbor by “going” and “doing.”  Learning this story or hearing its application does not make one a good Samaritan.  Feeling convicted does not, either.  Instead, the good neighbor is the one who puts the principles of this parable into practice.  Jesus would tell us all, “Go and do the same.”

“SACKCLOTH UNDERNEATH”

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Neal Pollard
The first time I recall understanding the significance of the story in 2 Kings 6:30 was sitting in a class taught by Wendell Winkler. He called the lesson “Hidden Cares.” He told us to remember that sitting in the audience each week we preached would be any number of folks carrying around hidden cares. In over twenty years of full-time preaching, I become more aware of that every day. Recently reading about the woman in Mark five who had been suffering for twelve years, I was reminded of this as I thought about the faces of individuals I see all the time suffering in a variety of ways. While we usually know some of the burdens our brothers and sisters are bearing, there are still many others whose troubles are not as widely known.

Jehoram is no Old Testament hero, but is rather a wicked Israelite king. He does not make the cut for the Hebrews eleven list and he does not even behave properly regarding Elisha after the event mentioned in the verse above, but he does illustrate the many who walk around with hidden cares. The verse reads, “When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes-now he was passing by on the wall-and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body.”

The sackcloth was coarsely woven cloth, often made of goat’s hair. It was worn to show mourning and submission to God. No doubt, wearing one of these for any length of time would bring itching, irritation, and discomfort. The garment was apparently meant to reflect outwardly the feelings of the heart and affliction of the spirit of the wearer.

Whether we are preaching or teaching or simply dealing with one another, may we keep a few things in mind. At any given point, the person with whom we are dealing is likely wearing their own “hidden sackcloth.” We may not be able to tell this by looking at their facial expressions or through any verbal cues when we converse. Further, the hidden cares they carry may affect the way they respond to us. Let us not assume they are upset with us or that it is even about us at all. Finally, keep in mind that people cope with their hidden cares in different ways. It is no reflection on the quality of our friendship or relationship if they do not share it. Each of us must determine how, when, and with whom we disclose these things. Let us pray for family, church family, coworkers, neighbors, and others with whom we have relationship as they wear these unseen cares.

To those with sackcloth underneath, remember that God has made us family. There are those you can trust to help bear the burdens. Pray about this and then act. Let these cares refine your relationship with God and sharpen your focus on the place where there will be no such cares. Remember that God is gracious and will not give you more than you can bear. This may seem doubtful at times, but on the other side of the sorrow it will be clear.

No matter how “spiffily” or “slobbily” one is dressed, be aware that underneath may be that figurative sackcloth. May this drive us to be more compassionate and understanding in our dealings with one another.

HOW JESUS SAW THE PEOPLE

Neal Pollard

“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mt. 9:35-38).

In these few verses, the Holy Spirit through Matthew paints a beautiful picture.  He presents how Jesus saw the people He encountered as His public ministry gains momentum.  How Jesus saw people gives us an example for how we should see them, too.

He saw them as hurting (Mt. 9:35).  Their hurts were literal, from sickness to disease.  Those hurts mattered to Jesus, and He took action.  He helped the hurting.  We need to approach people the same way, sensitive to the hurts they harbor.  The hurts may be physical, but as often they are social and emotional.  We cannot, as Christians, be callous and unfeeling to their hurts.  Instead, we must treat them as we would wish others to treat us (Mt. 7:12).

He saw them as hopeless (Mt. 9:36).   He did not see them as a lost cause, but rather as people in search of a hope that eluded them.  They were weary, scattered, and “shepherdless.” Yet, this condition drew Jesus’ concern.  He wanted to give them guidance and assistance.  He still wants that for the multitudes today, but He works through us.  We need to understand the hopelessness and directionlessness of the multitudes.  It should draw our concern.

He saw them as a harvest (Mt. 9:37-38).  They were not just a number, but they provided plentiful opportunity.  Jesus wanted His disciples dispatched to minister to that multitude.  His concern has not abated today.  He wants us in the harvest fields, reaching the hopeless and hurting.

Yesterday, during our missions meeting, there was a most unusual “benevolence call.”  Let me just say “his” name was Mary.  As I left the meeting to meet him at the door, My first reaction was repulsion.  Then, I felt pity.  What causes a young man to become so confused or hurt to act out in such a way?  What hope did he have?  What opportunity did I have to reach him?  Who knows how his story will end, but my hope and prayer is that something was done or said that will lead him to Christ at some point.  You will not likely meet someone so apparently in need of Jesus today, but most of all you encounter are lost.  That means they are in need.  Let us see people like Jesus did!

BANES AND BLESSINGS

Neal Pollard

I have not had the heart or stomach to watch the viral video of Karen Klein, who achieved infamy at the hands of the proverbial children left to themselves (cf. Prov. 29:15) who hopefully brought shame to their mothers.  But, I saw snippets of her being poked and prodded, and I have read that she was called fat, ugly, a troll, and much worse by the middle school students she was assigned to monitor on a Greece, New York, school bus.  She was treated cruelly and unfair, shown disrespect by children who without reformation of character appear destined for the penal system and eternal punishment.  It was truly heartbreaking, and no doubt a day that will live with Klein for the rest of her life.  But, she never raised her voice or left her seat choosing instead to remain calm.  She did shed tears.

Out of this social embarrassment, however, has come something very positive.  Various online groups have raised over $140,000 to send Karen on “a vacation of a lifetime.” In addition, she has received encouraging and sympathetic emails, letters, and Facebook messages from people across the nation (information gleaned from Stephanie Hanes, Christian Science Monitor, 6/21/12).

Most of us will not have our problems and mistreatments captured on a YouTube video.  Neither will the kindnesses and good deeds of others toward us be similarly immortalized.  Yet, all of us will be hurt and helped by others.  We will know suffering and strength.  Upon what will we choose to focus?  The good or the grime?

Karen Klein is my newfound hero because of how she handled her “banes” and how she focused on her “blessings.”  There is no indication she is a Christian, but she lives out what Peter tells Christians to do.  Concerning mistreatment by cruel masters, Peter tell slaves, “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Pet. 2:19-20).  Jesus, whom Peter holds up as an example (1 Pet. 2:21), says, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Mat. 5:39).  You will be assaulted, at least verbally, by people of the character of these sadistic adolescents. Don’t let it embitter you.  Instead, choose the high road and see the good in life.

THE BEST PLAY WAS NOT EVEN ON THE FIELD!

Neal Pollard

Yesterday, professional football fans saw one of the most exciting, improbable victories in its history climaxed by the stunning first play from scrimmage in overtime when Tebow hit Thomas for a playoff, overtime record 80 yards in a playoff, overtime record 11 seconds.  Local play-by-play man Dave Logan’s call, which will likely go down in Bronco lore, captures how monumental it was for the underdog Denver team.  If you watch ESPN, there will be several highlights of passes, runs, and defensive plays.  However, without a doubt, the best play of the day happened up in the stands, almost on the front row in the seats at the 15 yard line.  The game was tied, 23-23, and it was about 5:45 P.M.  The outcome was completely unknown and very much in doubt.  The last minute of regulation, alone, was a pins and needles affair.  It was right about then that a Christian husband and father, a deacon in this congregation, told his son, “It’s time for us to go.”  The son, a huge Tim Tebow and Broncos fan, was curious as to why.  His dad explained, “We’ve got something more important to do.”

Wait a minute.  What is more important than seeing on the biggest sports moments in this town in years?  That father knew that the saints were assembling at 6:00 P.M., and he wanted his son to know that worshipping God was the highest priority.  Here is a father who is raising his son to enjoy and appreciate those normal “guy things” that will be a source of entertainment for this young man for decades to come.  But, he is also teaching him something infinitely more important!  Those earthly diversions and entertainments are subordinate to “kingdom matters” (Mat. 6:33).  This father was showing his son Who reigns on the throne of his heart.  I pray that this man’s example will influence us all to remember what really matters most in the end.

Thanks, Dean!  What a great “play”!

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE COMPASSIONATE?


Neal Pollard

Christians are called to be compassionate.  There is no denying that.  Colossians 3:12 puts compassion at the head of a list of eight important qualities God’s chosen are to “put on.”  Frequently, we see Jesus as a model of compassion (Mat. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34).  The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable is upheld as exemplary for his compassion (Lk. 10:33).  Compassion is used to describe God’s dealings with us (Js. 5:11).

The problem can become what the world calls compassion as contrasted with what the Bible means by it.  The biblical meaning of the word speaks of the intense emotion of sympathy, even to the point of grief, that leads to the merciful treatment of the object of that compassion.  Compassion moved Jesus to heal and feed the crowds.  It moved the “Good Samaritan” to treat the wounds and pay for the medical care of the man left for dead.  God’s compassion moves Him to forgive us and bless us.

The world’s mistaken notion of compassion too often involves tolerating sin or compromising so as not to hurt the feelings of another.  Under the guise of compassion, too many basically “good” people are averse to condemning such sinful behavior as homosexuality, abortion, fornication, adultery, drunkenness, and the list of “such like” things is rather long (cf. Gal. 5:19-21).  Whereas the compassionate thing in such a case is to lovingly teach truth rather than validate wickedness, perhaps some are afraid of the negative backlash that comes from a courageous rebuke.  Compassion does not enable people to stay in unhealthy moral, ethical, economic, or emotional situations.  Compassion calls for sympathy, gentleness, and understanding, but that is not synonymous with endorsing evil.  It is antonymous!  Jesus was the king of compassion, but He was plainspoken about sin.  May we follow in His steps, being loving and merciful while staying true to God’s revealed standard.

CHEER UP THE LONELY

Neal Pollard

July 11th is National Cheer Up The Lonely Day.  I know that some of these observances are unworthy and meritless–July is also the month for “Disobedience Day,” “World UFO Day,” “Video Games Day,” “Embrace Your Geekness Day” (that’s today for any wanting to broadcast their nerdiness), “Yellow Pig Day,” and “Take Your Pants For A Walk Day.”  Almost every day on the calendar is national something day.  Yet, I appreciate very much the sentiment behind “Cheer Up The Lonely Day.”

Francis Pesek of Detroit, Michigan, is apparently the founder of this holiday.  The “Holiday Insights” website only says that Mr. Pesek “was a quiet, kind, wonderful man who had a heart of gold. He got the idea as a way of promoting kindness toward others who were lonely or forgotten as shut-ins or in nursing homes with no relatives or friends to look in on them” (http://holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/July/cheeruplonely.htm).  Syndicated columnist Kerby Anderson writes, “The baby boom generation is headed for a crisis of loneliness.”  A Gallup study reported more than one in three Americans are lonely.  There are some more apt to suffer from long-term loneliness, such as those with chronic illness, the disabled, married people isolated from each other, widows and widowers, single adults, pessimists, and those who tend toward reclusiveness.  It leads to stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, negative relationships, and several health complications.

Most experts say that to a significant degree, the lonely person himself or herself plays the most key role in overcoming the loneliness.  Paying attention to others, serving and helping them, is key to defeating it.  There is also the need to focus, perhaps to an even greater degree, on faith and one’s relationship with God.  They may benefit from reading and other resources to improve relationship-building.

Yet, God has given us, as Christians, a responsibility to reach out to the lonely.  The Hebrews writer (12:12) quotes Isaiah, who urges God’s people to “encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble” (35:3).  Our task is to help those who are overcome by life’s troubles and temptations (cf. Gal. 6:1-2).  We are to visit those, like widows, in their “distress” (Js. 1:27).  Christ calls on those who wish to be saved to be engaged in visiting those having a variety of needs (Mt. 25:36).  Certainly, in principle, God calls on us to do what we can to ease the hurt and burden of loneliness.

It is encouraging to read how God feels about the lonely.  “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).  Jesus said He was sent to such as these (Lk. 4:18).  If God has such tender feelings for people such as the lonely, shouldn’t we?