Tuesday 6 December 2016

What does The Good Samaritan parable really teach? Discriminating love; therefore probably *not* what you have been told...

We all know the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan - and we probably suppose we know what it means - what is its moral.

But we are probably wrong, because the parable is normally misinterpreted as preaching undiscriminating and universal love, by God's second great commandment; on the basis that we should love our neighbour as ourselves, and everybody is our 'neighbour'.

In a nutshell, it is usual to assume that Jesus is teaching that everybody ought to model themselves on The Good Samaritan.  

What Jesus's parable actually does is to answer a lawyer who - following on from the commandment to 'love thy neighbour' asked Jesus who was his neighbour? And Jesus's answer, via the parable, was anybody that helps you when you have need is your neighbour, and that is whom you are commanded to love.

But the priest and Levite, who passed by on the other side and showed no mercy to the man fallen among thieves, were not his neighbours; and Jesus indicates that we are not commanded to love those who do not show us mercy. Anybody who fails to help us when we are in need (even if they are a priest or Levite) is not included in the commandment to love our neighbour.

So, the parable of the Good Samaritan preaches discrimination over who is your neighbour; and its meaning is very different from - and in a sense almost opposite to - the usual pulpit interpretation. Jesus's teaching is that we must love those who show mercy upon us - and therefore the parable is not telling us to all behave like The Good Samaritan.

I wonder if this correct interpretation surprised you as much as it did me?

NOTE: I got this interpretation from: http://www.jrganymede.com/2016/11/16/the-samaritan-groom/


Luke. Chapter 10: 25 ¶And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.