The lesson at church several weeks ago centered on one of the more recognized parables in the New Testament. It was the story of the Good Samaritan. I have been familiar with the parable since childhood days spent in Sunday school class. However, age and maturity have a way of providing more insight for understanding. In some cases it also provides opportunities for gaining first hand experience. I have found that to be true on both counts recently.
Readers familiar with the parable will remember that the context for the story was a religious scholar had publicly posed the question to Jesus of how one could gain eternal life. Jesus responded with the two great commandments; to love God with all one’s heart, mind and soul, and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. A lawyer asks Jesus who is his neighbor? Jesus answers with the story of a Jewish man traveling along a road who was attacked by robbers. The robbers beat the man, stole his money and left him wounded beside the road. First a priest comes along, but crosses the road and passes. He was followed by a Levite who did the same. Later a Samaritan approached and stopped and rendered first aid to the man. The Samaritans and the Jews were not friendly to one another, but the Samaritan took the man to a nearby inn and paid the innkeeper for a room and to care for the man. Jesus told the lawyer to go and do the same.
I have had a couple of occasions recently to reflect upon the lesson. It is difficult at times for those of us of a certain age to remember we should no longer approach projects in the same manner we did 30 years earlier. It can be a particularly difficult exercise when one has always been a do-it-your-self devotee. It was on one of those occasions that I heard my neighbor, Bobby Ramsey, calling me over to the fence. At the time, I was on an extension ladder propped up against the tree in our front drive. I had one arm extended through the rungs and was trimming the tree with a chainsaw. It must have appeared to be very precarious, if not down right dangerous to Ramsey. Rather than admonish me for being that reckless, Ramsey offered to lend me an electric pole tree trimmer he had. He said it would be an easier job trimming the tree from the ground. He was correct. It was also faster, safer and less fatiguing.
The second occasion did not occur in response to a careless act on my part, but it was none-the-less welcome. The frequency of the spring and early summer rains have created saturated grounds and a continuous stream of run-off water into the bar ditch in front of our house. The water has been seeping out of the hill behind the house. Ours is not an isolated case in the county. Many home owners are experiencing prolific vegetation growth and standing water that is unusual for the area. I kept thinking it would surely stop when summer rolled around, but I was wrong. The rains continued, the seeping continued and the grass in the bar ditch continued to grow. It was beginning to smell and breed mosquitoes. Something had to be done. So I filled up the lawn mower with gas, loaded the string trimmer with string and fuel and attacked the bar ditch with the furor of a 30-year-old.
Once again my attention was diverted from the task at hand. This time it was a passer-by - Jimmy Carter of Bangs. He had a trailer of lawn equipment behind his pickup and he said he hated to see a guy have to work that hard. He offered the loan of a power weed trimmer that rolls on big wheels and is pushed along, not carried, and is significantly more powerful. He just left it and said he would be back later to pick it up. It made short order of the second half of the job and based on how “give out” I was at the conclusion — who knows what could have happened.
Some biblical scholars believe that in the Good Samaritan parable Jesus framed the lawyer’s question from, to whom do I owe an obligation to — to whom do I feel compassion. And in doing so Jesus emphasized the nature of love, not the object of it. It is comforting to know the lesson is still being practiced.
Robert Brincefield is publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.