Lessons from a Samaritan Traveller

Male and female hands in gentle embrace on parchment banner background

There are several ways Christians can help others in need. One common approach is to do it institutionally, especially for big projects such as running schools and hospitals. The pooling of resources to provide more efficient and enhanced services is one effective way to do it – provided that it does not excuse us from pursuing other forms of doing good. In fact it is far more important for individual Christians and small informal groups to care for the needy.

The Lord Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) to illustrate this. The wounded man was left half-dead on the road by robbers who attacked him. The priest and Levite (representing institutionalised religion) who passed by, though being religious professionals, were most disappointing. They did not stop to help, or even give a word of encouragement. They had done their duty and were now “off-duty”.

But it was the Samaritan who stopped to help. In so doing, he helped as an individual – there was no system or institution behind him. He helped simply because it was the human thing to do. He had a heart to serve, which lies at the heart of all forms of caring for the needy. He used his own resources – his bandages, oil, wine, and donkey – to help.

Two key facts in the story are often missed. First, after the Samaritan brought the man to the inn, he “took care of him”(Luke 10:34). He could have gone to his own room to rest after such an eventful day. The victim rode on the donkey, while the Samaritan walked all the way to the inn. Tired, the Samaritan could have retired to his own room.

But he continued to care for the man; imagine him sitting by the man’s bedside, attending to his needs, talking with him using encouraging words till the wounded man fell asleep. When it came to caring, the Samaritan was never “off-duty”and was willing to work overtime. He cared because he was a caring person.

Second, not only did the Samaritan personally care for the victim; he also recruited help. He had to attend to his own business the next day but told the innkeeper: “Take care of him”(Luke 10:35, ESV). In so doing, the Samaritan formed a community of care-givers.

He was able to tell the innkeeper to care for the man because he himself had done the same the previous day (the word for “taking care” in verses 34 and 35 is the same in Greek). The innkeeper would have recruited more caregivers – his family, servants, and perhaps even guests. How grateful the victim would have felt to be surrounded by such a community of caregivers.

We can learn from Jesus’ story that it is important we are transformed within so that our good deeds come from within. We care because we are caring. Foundational to all the good that can be done institutionally is the good done by individuals in private, away from the glaring lights of publicity.

But doing good and caring for others alone can drain one’s energy. We need fellow carers with whom we can join forces – not in a formal organisational sense, but in an informal small group sort of way, the way the Samaritan did it.

The Lord Jesus seemed to favour this. He appreciated the faith and collective efforts of the men who carried their paralysed friend to Jesus (Mark 2:3-5). After He raised Jairus’ daughter in the presence of her parents and his inner circle of disciples, He told “them” to give her some food (Mark 5:43). He asked the disciples to feed the crowd: “You (plural) give them something to eat”(Mark 6:37). When Lazarus was raised from the dead, He told the men (“them”) who had moved the tombstone to free Lazarus from his grave clothes (John 11:44).

It makes sense because we often need a few others to take care of the needy we meet on life’s many roads. Why not form small informal communities of caregivers – your family, small group, Bible study group, old school friends, and so on? The church will be more caring and stronger, and the Lord will be pleased.

Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon –

was Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore from 2000 to 2012. Currently retired, he now keeps busy with an active itinerant ministry speaking and teaching in Singapore and overseas.


Picture by Nikki Zalewski/