In Jesus' parable about the Good Samaritan, we meet a Jewish priest and a Levite who took the same route to travel from Jerusalem to Jericho. Both saw a Jewish man wounded and bleeding; lying on the side of the road. He was obviously a victim of highway robbery (literally!). Both men also walked away without offering any sort of assistance.
Then along comes a Samaritan, who was considered socially repulsive to Jews. He doesn't let these prejudices stop him from helping the guy. The Samaritan goes above and beyond and spends his own hard-earned money to help this guy. A stranger. A Jewish stranger, no less!
The Samaritan has the more Christ-like attitude and Jesus' point is to inspire and teach us to do likewise. I get that. But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about WHY the priest and the Levite left the guy lying in the road. And then I want to talk about what we do that makes us guilty of doing the same thing. And what we need to do to be more 'Samaritan-like'.
So, why did the priest and Levite cross the road to get away from the wounded man? And no, this isn't a riddle. They crossed over to the other side of the road because they didn't want to defile themselves--to become 'unclean'. And why didn't they want to become unclean, you ask? Because if they were unclean, they wouldn't have been able to do their jobs until they went through the process of being made clean again.
In other words, they wouldn't have been able to go about their priestly and Levitical duties for a pre-determined number of days and until specific offerings and sacrifices had been made. Or in today's lingo, until they had been quarantined for as long as the Law of Moses required them to be for such an 'offense'.
When you think of it in those terms, you can almost understand why they wouldn't help the guy. For all we know they were on their way to do something really important--something that couldn't wait. We can almost understand where they are coming from, but not quite...
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to be careful not to let the business of serving God become more about business than service. When we ignore an urgent or genuine need for the sake of doing church work, we've missed the point. When we do ministry instead of minister to others, we've missed the point.
I have no doubt that both the priest and the Levite believed they were doing the right thing. They had a mindset that said they were doing what was best for the 'greater good' of the Jewish population. But that's not how it works. We have to finish the tasks God has already given us before he'll give us more to do. Keeping that in mind, we have to be careful not to justify what we don't do by making a big deal out of what we do do. Remember: God-given opportunities to serve aren't suggestions. They are assignments, aka homework.
FYI: If you aren't familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan, you can read it in the New Testament book of Luke (Luke 10:25-37).
Be salt and light,