While I was off work sick, my financial situation became extremely frustrating. Bill collectors called non-stop, and my bank account seemed to stay overdrawn. Just days before, the sheriff had knocked on my front door and handed my sixteen-year-old son foreclosure papers for our home. Then to make matters worse, he told him cruelly, “Don’t be surprised if all your belongings are thrown into the street,” only the language he used to say this is not noteworthy to repeat.
I felt helpless, not being able to help support our family. I know now God was trying to get me to depend on Him, and He was testing my faith, but as I was going through it, at times I felt let down by so many people. I became thankful for the simplest things: enough groceries to make it all week, enough strength to wash the dishes, and enough money to buy my son lunch for school.
One particular day my phone rang nonstop. There was a certain finance company that I had to borrow from while I was recuperating from two surgeries. Needless to say, I was late paying them. I opened the empty refrigerator and glanced at the condiments that lined the door–ketchup, mustard, mayo, and a little salad dressing. There were remnants of better days–a jar of capers and balsamic vinegar dressing. I felt disheartened and tired. I fell on my knees in the middle of my kitchen floor, and I cried out to God, “Why haven’t you sent them to help me?” I was not sure who they were. I went over a list of family members, friends, and my new church family. They all knew my circumstances and some did help later on but at this time I felt invisible. God wanted me to be invisible to them, he wanted me to know where my help comes from, my help as David says, came from the Lord who made heaven and earth! He used creative ways to show me that, even sending a return check for over a hundred dollars from a Neurologist in the mail. At the time though I was immature in trusting him and it did not ease my pain.
As I knelt by that refrigerator I wept and once again said, “Father, why haven’t you told them to come and help me?” I heard him say in the clearest voice, “I told them to come, Bonnie, but they are not coming!” I could not believe what I was hearing. The God who parted the Red Sea, the God who made a donkey speak, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob– surely He could make them come?
No, He does not force us to do anything. He gives us free will. I will never forget that day as long as I live. About an hour later, the phone rang and my ex sister-in-law said, “Bonnie, my dad is trying to get hold of you.” I had been divorced from his son for over ten years, his son was actually doing time in the county jail for non-child support, and this man was not a Christian. But he knew my situation.
I called his number, and he said, “I was wondering if you had any bills you needed me to pay?”
“I said, well, as a matter a fact, I do.”
Then, after he agreed to pay the finance company the two hundred dollars I owed, he brought me two hundred more for groceries. I hung up the phone and instantly I heard God say, “I sent the Good Samaritan”! Praise God! My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory.
“A certain man went down from Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance, there came down a certain priest that way; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and he went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Luke (9:30-34).
I met the Good Samaritan face to face that day! The last time I checked he was not sure about God or if He truly existed but he was still helping others.
What was Jesus trying to say in this parable? Who are the priest and Levites of today? Possibly a pastor, elder or deacon could have been substituted for Levite or priest. If you noticed, both these men passed by on the other side of the street of this slain person. Why would a Christian do that? There is one clue Jesus gives the reader and it’s not about the man who’s lying beaten, it’s about the nationality of the one who helped. He was a “Samaritan.” The Jews hated the Samaritans, and if you study history closely, you would be familiar with why. Let us just say after 911 happened to America, an Arab al-Qaida Muslim lay half dead in the street. Would you pass by on the other side? But in this story the very one who they looked on with disdain was the one who had compassion. Yes, he was the only one who stopped and helped.
Have you ever been taken off guard by someone you stereotyped; only to find out you were way off base? Have you ever met a tattooed biker with a pony tail and found out he was one of the most prestigious attorneys in town? I have. Often we judge too quickly. Somehow we have taken the honor from God and given to men and some of these men wouldn’t help us if we were lying half dead.
Let us take it a step further. Close your eyes and picture the one person who hurt you more than anyone in your life. Maybe it is an ex-husband or wife, maybe it is a parent or a close friend who betrayed you, and maybe it is a sibling or someone who murdered your loved one? Now picture the defining moment when you knew you hated them, possibly even wanted them dead. Got it? Now, picture seeing them lying bloody in the street; do you think you would cross the road? The Samaritan did.
Lately I have noticed some traits that seem to run in my family; we all seem to have a problem with being right and we will go to great lengths to prove we are. Another horrible attribute we seem to have been plagued with is severe stubbornness. I personally believe these stem from pride and need to be cut at the roots. However, the one characteristic flaw that has haunted me of late is that we all are quite keen at seeing the failings in others or even the hidden errors in things.
I once had a job in a factory working in quality control. My job description was to look over the product and if there was an imperfection or defect I was to remove it before it made its way to shipping. I was told I was very good at this!
My father was reading the newspaper one morning and placed it in front of me to point out an error in a name given. The photo was of a deceased elderly man in the obituary column. Under his photograph was clearly a woman’s name, “Barbara Jean Maples.” Yes, we tend to notice the flaws first. We may even notice them in people. We point our finger and say, “well, they never go to church or pay their tithes.” “They never finished college; it’s their fault they lack”. “They’ll always be on welfare, they were raised in it”. “Well, if they didn’t smoke and drink!”
How we see someone is not how Jesus sees him or her. He did not see the woman with the alabaster box the way the church leaders of his day saw her. They knew she had been a prostitute. Yet she was the only one there who kissed His feet and poured out expensive perfume, a costly ointment. She cried over her sins and wiped her tears that had dropped off her cheeks and ran down upon his feet. The men whispered about how she used to do way worse in the darkness and the church leaders stood by and judged and said, “If he were a true prophet he’d know what kind of woman she was! He did. Jesus saw her heart.
He did not see Zacchaeus the way the people congregating saw him. They saw him as a chief tax collector, a crook and a friend of the Romans. Jesus saw his heart. He saw a man ready to pay back what he had stolen and willing to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of him. What would you do just to get a glimpse?
There was a woman drug into the streets by her hair. She was naked and had been caught in the middle of a sexual act of adultery. The people picked up stones but not my Lord. No, he saw the bruises that had left her feeling like trash, worthless. He saw her hurt and her heart and how she was searching for love in a wrong place.
We may in fact see a bum on the corner that is bleeding or dirty and think, “I can’t help him. I’m in a bad area of town. Someone might rob me.”Or we might think he brought this on himself. We may think, he is a drug addict or an alcoholic and that is why he is lying there.
Let’s go over some statistics: about one-third of the adult homeless population is veterans. These American veterans have fought in Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and more. We must not judge them. They have seen things no one should see. We have to start trying on other peoples shoes. If you seen what they seen you might drink too. I am not condoning getting drunk on alcohol but trying to make a point here.
Families with children are growing and becoming one of the new faces of homelessness. One site says they account for about 40% of the people who become displaced or live in motels each year. These men who have lost jobs and women running from abuse have nowhere to go. A large number of our homeless are mentally ill. The gospel of Matthew says that Jesus cast out demons and healed the lunatic–He separated them. He didn’t look away and walk on the other side of the street. He healed the mentally ill. The faces of the many homeless, as you can see, come in all colors and ethnicities.
The next time you drive past the person on the corner, the prostitute who is barely eighteen fleeing from a father who beat her or molested her or the veteran who has fought for your freedom, think about that Samaritan. We need to think about how the road some travel is harder than we could ever imagine. Do not look for the error in them, but the need. Jesus said if you did it for the least of these you did it unto me. Jesus said it is the sick who need a doctor.
And that is the famine, judging and looking at their fault; the famine to see them as Christ would see them, a chance to be Christ hands and feet. Yes, how we see the wounded is what determines whether we cross over or help him. Can we have true compassion for them, compassion that says “Where are your accusers?” That is what Jesus said. How can you tell someone to go away and sin no more if you do not first bandage their wounds and bind up their brokenness and pour in the wine and the oil? God said in Jeremiah, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? Declares the Lord.” (22:16). Do you want to know God? He just told you how.
Let us stop crossing to the other side of the street when we see people in famine and let us start helping them heal and prosper!