“But a certain Samaritan being on his journey, came near him; and seeing him, was moved with compassion. And going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine: and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34)
The complete parable,of The Good Samaritan, includes two earlier passers-by who each gave questionable excuses for not helping the victim of robbery and assault. Each potential helper and robbers in the parable followed a particular philosophy; the robbers-what’s yours is mine, the ignoring passers-by-what’s mine is mine, and the Samaritan-what’s mine is yours. Each philosophy was revealed by the actions of each. Jesus then asked those listening, “Which of the three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man?” The answer was: “He that showed mercy to him.” Jesus then replied; “Go, and do thou in like manner.”
We too have opportunities to do likewise. To be channels to recovery for another. Church and community organizations provide the vehicles by which many can contribute and serve. These and other means are available to act the Good Samaritan. There are those in need who live difficult lives; often, not of their own doing.
“It’s not what would become of those, that are not helped; but rather, what would become of those, who do not help.” – Rev. Martin Luther King
However, in helping, one must distinguish between the value inherent in giving one a hand up, and to that of a hand out. In the assessment of one’s distress, immediate action is initially needed to alleviate that distress. Then two questions must follow: Why the distress? And, does this distress potentially require long or short-term attention? Once these two questions are answered; What then?
We don’t know what became of the man, left for dead, after the Samaritan left – other than, that he recovered. It can be assumed that he resumed his life as before the attack. Regardless, Jesus’ purpose was to alert people to the love of neighbor and responsibility to care for the downtrodden. But one must remember Jesus is the possessor and dispenser of both, absolute truth and compassion. Such humanitarian action, as exhibited by the Good Samaritan, is fruitless, if one is applied without the other.
The result of giving one a hand up, is getting one back on one’s feet. To again do for oneself, that which has, temporarily, been done for one. Thereby, restoring meaning and purpose to one’s life. Conversely, in the hand out philosophy, it serves no one . They become dependent and tame, as cattle. With neither direction, dreams nor hope of fulfillment of the gifts they possess.
In an article, Harriet McDonald/The Doe Fund, says: “We can break the cycle of poverty and homelessness only if we increase our expectations.” She continues: “When able-bodied people who were once homeless go to work, it vastly improves the quality of their lives and the lives of their children and communities. We all benefit when they are helped to become productive and responsible adults. We believe in the ability of all human beings to regenerate their lives. We believe that every man and woman has true value, dignity and worth.”
Jesus, Himself, when he forgave sins, did not leave it at that. He followed with a command-“Go and sin no more.” There was attached a challenging expectation of renewal-change your ways.
There are those who truly have no further recourse, but to rely on others’ charitable works indefinitely. But still, a variety of known processes must be put in play to bring value to their lives.
To continue to support those, who are capable of better, without offering realistic attainable alternatives, is inhumane. All have an inherent value and deserve every opportunity to nurture it. Those who have been dependent for a prolonged period, must receive guidance to re-orient them to a productive way of life. A goal sought after, is a joy of life. Anyone not directed toward that end is being short-changed. And those who are in a position to resurrect those disheartened, must not be negligent. For if you give a person a fish, he can eat for a day; but, if you teach him to fish, he can eat for a lifetime. Furthermore, he now has the capacity to pass on that knowledge to others.
The crucial balance, between truth and compassion, must be maintained throughout the process to obtain the desired result of happy functioning people. As Saint Mother Teresa said: “Truth without compassion is cruelty, and compassion without truth is sentimentality.” In this world, as it is at the moment, many strive to have their way. Absolute truth that ensures compassion free of sentimentality is unattainable, because in exercising free will, most choose to pursue that which they want, instead of that which they should. The “what about me,” attitude discourages complete harmony by this marginally attained balance between truth and compassion.
Through this tug of war, between truth and compassion, all that is achieved is one pleased particular faction, who happens to be in power at that time. As the pendulum between truth and compassion swings back, as it always will; there will always be periods of dissatisfaction for one faction. What results is a continual imbalance.
What is good for all, is a balance that leads to minimal ebbs and flows, which is achieved through compromise; eliminating the violent swings that are the cause of divisiveness. Through compromise, positive progress is made, and for the good of the general population. When the people are in harmony, those who struggle, will more likely receive, the willing attention they most certainly deserve. In the long run, all are the better for it.
Until we relate to one another with a balance of truth and compassion, there will be no periods of harmony. Either we will, in truth alone, adhere solely to the letter of the law, and then in potential coldness, diminish the spirit of the law; or, we will, in compassion alone, marginalize the law, and find ourselves drowning in a self-imposed chaos, born of our unreasonable sentimentality.
There comes a time when issues of great weight can no longer be pushed aside. A line drawn in the sand, compels the determination of right action. Right action defined by good will and common sense for the good of all.
However,what often becomes evident, at a moment of truth, are the ideological preferences of those who are in position to decide that action. For the leopard is known by its spots, the zebra is known by its stripes, and “every tree is known by its fruit.”- Luke 6:44
No greater challenge is there for one, than to admit when one is wrong.