Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 21, 1960
NUMBER 49, PAGE 6-7b

A Parable On Personal Kindness

Robert C. Welch, Birmingham, Alabama

The word neighbor has lost much of its significance. We think of it as most commonly referring to the people who live and work nearest to our place of abode or work. That is not its significance as used by the lawyer and the Lord. They used it to apply to those persons in contact with one another, regardless of geographical lines. The lawyer wanted to raise the question as to the identity of his neighbor; not that he did not know what a neighbor is; but that he wanted to place a specific limit on the breadth of his love. The Lord did not concern himself with defining the neighbor so much as with showing the lawyer that he should not limit his love; that he should be sure that he himself was a good neighbor.

The Jericho road was a familiar one to the feet of our Lord. And it was familiar to the lawyer, to the robber, to the sanctimonious priest, to the selfish Levite, to the despised Samaritan, to the furtive traveler and business man and to the hypocritical Pharisee. That is the setting of the parable of Luke, chapter 10.

"The Root Of All Kinds Of Evil"

The robbers were not neighbors to the "certain man," even though they should have come from the same city and had the same ancestry. To them he was an opportunity for bloody, gluttonous, sadistic, greed. The man who works at the next bench or who east and sleeps at the nearest house may be less of a neighbor than the person whose name we have never even heard. He may have never had a spark of concern for his fellow-man, with all his thoughts and efforts bent on satisfying his animal passions of greed, gluttony and filthy lucre. His depravity may have so etched and stained his moral fibre that he enjoys seeing others suffer at his hands. He is little more than an animal. Animals cannot appreciate being neighbors.

"Not As The Rest Of Men"

The sanctimonious priest was too concerned about not soiling his own hands to show any kindness. After all, how could a priest of God offer service and sacrifices if he had polluted himself with the blood of a man whose character was unknown to him! It is easy to picture the modern pastor who lives such a sheltered and cloistered life that he cannot be bothered and contaminated with assistance to the downtrodden. Oh, of course, he has his workers organized so that he can turn over such cases to them! Does he think that he can be a neighbor through the hands of his church organization?

This parable is not concerned with the organized and well trained beggary which plagues well intentioned people. Such requires restraint and a certain degree of apparent austerity. This parable is concerned with the man who is in a circumstance which is out of his control. He cannot help himself.

"Lord, When Saw We Thee?

There goes the Levite; preoccupied with his petty affairs of the day. He has an official position in the economical and religious life of his nation. His position and economic security is guaranteed to him for life and has been so from a baby. He has been trained to selfish thinking. Conditions that should be a blessing to men today may be very far from it. Many people are guaranteed a certain financial security in their latter days, so that they may be losing a sense of care for those who do not have it. It is all too easy to get the sensation that there is some government agency or some charitable agency to take care of the beaten, downtrodden, indigent, infirm and incapable; so that we realize no need of personal attention and assistance on our part. Kindness is a thing of the heart and not of the well oiled machine.

The Levite had a philosophy that continues in prominence. He functioned on the theory that what havoc he had not wreaked was not his to remedy. No, he would never have robbed the man, neither would he have been so depraved as to have beaten him. But how much difference is there between the heart which has no kindness and the one that inflicts the actual cruelty? Is the cruelty much more in evidence, to beat a man, than to leave him weltering in his blood? You would not rob your friend or foe; but would you help him when robbed of life's necessities? You would not set fire to your fellow-man's house; but would you warn him, then help him rebuild? The Levite lacked this trait of kindness. You would neither tempt a man to sin nor condemn him to torment; but would you pick him up when tempted and fallen, or try to save him from damnation? You say that it is not your responsibility? Careful there; remember the Levite.

"Love ... In Deed And In Truth"

The Samaritan, the kind, the merciful, compassionate man of a mixed and despised race, nation and religion, arrives on the scene. Does he look for a stray coin which the robbers left? Does he give the sufferer a kick and pass along? No. he has a personal kindness warming his heart. Does he draw his garment self-righteously about him and consider his calling too high to stoop to help? No. this is now man to man; not in tearing one another down but in raising up. Is he so careless and unconcerned that he pays no attention to the miserable scene before him? Indeed not, life is all about him and he is a part of it and it is a part of him.

As we contemplate his mercy and compassion it is easy to lapse into a dream of modern circumstances. Imagine him thinking: "I:it this remind me to give to the Red Cross and my favorite charity." It does not fit the picture of the Samaritan. Or, if he had been a modern church member he might be heard to say: "Such as this should be called to the attention of the church, after all, that is what we contribute for." That does not fit the case either. We cannot fulfill our personal obligation of kindness by church contributions. They are essential; but so are our personal kindnesses.

He took him to the inn and promised to pay the bill; but if of modern philosophy, he would be heard promoting some big institution for such care and asking the churches to build and maintain it. That is no part of the ease of the Good Samaritan. Men of wealth and prominence are placed on the boards of institutions, and henceforth they become professional beggars. Instead of say-inn: "and whatsoever thou spendest more, I, when I come back again, will repay thee."; they try to make the people and the churches believe that it is their responsibility. All of the personal kindness has been drained from the heart, and motion has been given to the machine. They confuse the "milk of human kindness" with the oil of a man-made machine.

Of the Samaritan, and to the lawyer, Jesus said; "Go, and do thou likewise." Brethren, we need to be giving more and more stress to such commands as this. We need to be emphasizing personal kindness, mercy and compassion. It is a lesson which the world has forgotten. Religion in general has forgotten it. Instead of stressing these lessons on personal duties and kindness, denominations and institutional brethren are stressing their institutions, societies, and agencies; as if their work could be done by proxy. Our own people do not realize its significance and importance. Let us not get so busy fighting against the socialized institutional, movement that we forget what we are fighting for.