All three of our travelers see the same hapless victim that day, but only the Samaritan is moved with pity (v. 33). Perhaps that initial impulse, that move to pity, is the first instinct of God’s Spirit that we should take more seriously. We are prone to dismiss or censor those impulses. We immediately question their practicality or long-term consequences. Will the person I help be grateful or take advantage of me? Will I be helping or hurting, encouraging or enabling? By the time I finish such reflecting, I’ve conveniently left the intersection of Need and moved on to the other side of the road. Perhaps we should trust God more completely with our admittedly conflicting impulses.
Some of my hardest days as a pastor were the ones when I addressed the Needs that walked into the church office seeking help with rent, bills, prescriptions, or food. I struggled to find the perfect response that satisfied my desire to do the wise thing for each individual. Should I answer Need with money, or would that feed a bad habit? Should I provide Need a ride, or will my own safety be jeopardized? Should I pay Need’s bills, or does that just contribute to a broken system?
After years of struggle, I find no assurance in my own conflicted judgment. Fully acknowledging that the Need standing there with hat in hand is probably not telling me the whole truth, I admit that I too might bend the truth if I were in those worn shoes. I realize I will never know the whole story of another’s pain. So I try my best to follow that impulse, that move to pity, and trust God to help invest my denarii the best way possible, knowing that absolutely nothing can prevent God’s grace from healing the Need only God can see.
Can we trust God with our impulses to help someone in need?
Lord, our impulses to help too often become confused and conflicted. Forgive us if our caution misleads us and help us to trust our impulses for good. Amen.