They Did Jehovah’s Will
A Samaritan Proves to Be a Good Neighbor
IN JESUS’ day, a palpable animosity existed between Jews and Gentiles. In time, the Jewish Mishnah even included a law that forbade Israelite women to assist non-Jews during childbirth, since this would only help bring another Gentile into the world.—Abodah Zarah 2:1.
The Samaritans were more closely related to the Jews than were the Gentiles, both religiously and racially. Yet, they too were viewed as outcasts. “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans,” wrote the apostle John. (John 4:9) Indeed, the Talmud taught that “a piece of bread given by a Samaritan is more unclean than swine’s flesh.” Some Jews even used the term “Samaritan” as an expression of contempt and reproach.—John 8:48.
In view of this situation, Jesus’ words to a man who was versed in Jewish law are very instructive. The man approached Jesus and asked: “Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?” In reply, Jesus called his attention to the Mosaic Law, which commands to ‘love Jehovah with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind,’ and to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ The lawyer then asked Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29; Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5) According to the Pharisees, the term “neighbor” applied only to those who kept the Jewish traditions—certainly not to Gentiles or Samaritans. If this inquisitive lawyer thought that Jesus would support that view, he was in for a surprise.
A Compassionate Samaritan
Jesus answered the man’s question by relating a parable.a “A certain man,” he said, “was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” The distance between Jerusalem and Jericho was about 14 miles [23 km]. The road connecting these two cities had sharp turns and projecting spurs of rock, making it easy for thieves to hide, attack, and escape. As it turned out, the traveler in Jesus’ parable “fell among robbers, who both stripped him and inflicted blows, and went off, leaving him half-dead.”—Luke 10:30.
“By coincidence,” Jesus continued, “a certain priest was going down over that road, but, when he saw him, he went by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he got down to the place and saw him, went by on the opposite side.” (Luke 10:31, 32) The priests and Levites were teachers of the Law—including the law of neighbor love. (Leviticus 10:8-11; Deuteronomy 33:1, 10) Surely, they of all people should have felt compelled to help the injured traveler.
Jesus went on: “A certain Samaritan traveling the road came upon him.” The mention of a Samaritan no doubt heightened the lawyer’s curiosity. Would Jesus endorse the negative view of this race? On the contrary, upon seeing the unfortunate traveler, the Samaritan “was moved with pity.” Jesus said: “So he approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.b And the next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here.’”—Luke 10:33-35.
Jesus now asked his inquirer: “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” The lawyer knew the answer, yet he seemed reluctant to say “the Samaritan.” Instead, he simply replied: “The one that acted mercifully toward him.” Jesus then said: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.”—Luke 10:36, 37.
Lesson for Us
The man who questioned Jesus did so in an effort “to prove himself righteous.” (Luke 10:29) Perhaps he thought that Jesus would praise his fastidious adherence to the Mosaic Law. But this self-assuming individual needed to learn the truth of the Bible proverb: “Every way of a man is upright in his own eyes, but Jehovah is making an estimate of hearts.”—Proverbs 21:2.
Jesus’ parable shows that a truly upright person is one who not only obeys God’s laws but also imitates his qualities. (Ephesians 5:1) For example, the Bible tells us that “God is not partial.” (Acts 10:34) Do we imitate God in this regard? Jesus’ stirring parable shows that our neighborliness should transcend national, cultural, and religious barriers. Really, Christians are instructed to “work what is good toward all”—not just toward people of the same social class, race, or nation and not just toward fellow believers.—Galatians 6:10.
Jehovah’s Witnesses strive to follow this Scriptural admonition. For example, when natural disasters strike, they extend humanitarian aid to fellow believers as well as to non-Witnesses.c In addition, they collectively spend over a billion hours each year helping people to come to a better knowledge of the Bible. They strive to reach everyone with the Kingdom message, for God’s will is that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Timothy 2:4; Acts 10:35.
a A parable is a short, usually fictitious narrative from which a moral or spiritual truth is drawn.
b Some inns in Jesus’ day evidently provided not only shelter but also food and other services. This may be the type of accommodations Jesus had in mind, for the Greek word used here is different from that rendered “lodging room” at Luke 2:7.
c For examples, see The Watchtower, December 1, 1996, pages 3-8, and January 15, 1998, pages 3-7.