The Good Samaritan is one of Jesus’ most well-known parables, or stories that teach a truth about heaven. Here are 11 key lessons we can receive from this beloved text (Luke 10:25-37).
#1 Go to the Scriptures First
The lawyer to whom Jesus told this parable asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life. He asked this question in order to test Jesus and try to trap Him in His words, but this is still the right question to ask. Even though he doesn’t know it or believe it at the time, he also goes to the right Source for the answers. Going to God in prayer and reading your Bible is always the best choice when seeking how to live your life.
#2 Seek to Understand Scripture
When Jesus asked the lawyer what he thought the answer was, the lawyer knew how to correctly interpret and apply the Scriptures. The Torah could be summed up in the short command: love God and love your neighbor. This does oversimplify the Law without proper context or application, but it satisfies Jesus, Who said that the lawyer answered correctly.
When we approach Scripture seeking guidance from God, we should be sure that we are seeking to understand what God is actually saying and not just assuming a meaning or trying to make the Bible say only what we want it to say.
#3 We Should Not Try to Justify Ourselves Before God
However, the lawyer tried to “justify himself.” This can mean several things: he may have wanted Jesus to say out loud that he had been successful in keeping the Law, or he may have been looking for an excuse to get out of some of its stipulations. By asking who his neighbor was, he could have earnestly been looking for the right person to serve, but it is much more likely that his self-righteousness made him want to include certain people but exclude others.
We should never try to justify ourselves to God based on our own actions. We will never be successful if we do.
#4 Listen to the Words of Our Lord
An easy but often overlooked lesson about parables is that we should simply be receptive to what God is telling us. Jesus taught us deep and powerful truths about the kingdom of God through parables, stories that used familiar imagery to force us to confront our own preconceptions. Parables are meant to be used as a mirror into our own souls so that we can ask ourselves if we are living in line with God’s will.
#5 Do Not Be Legalistic and Ignore the Larger Implications of God’s Word
In the parable, a man is robbed and beaten, left to die on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man lying there but passed by on the other side of the road. They did this to avoid ritual uncleanness by touching a body they thought was dead; they also may have avoided the man simply because they thought they were too important to help.
This was a major argument Jesus had with the Pharisees: they kept the smaller commandments while ignoring the spirit of the Law of God, which was that they should always help others in need. Jesus paints the priest and the Levite – ordinarily respected members of the community – in a rightfully negative light here.
#6 Offer Help When It’s Needed
Then the Samaritan man comes down the road, takes pity on the victim, and does everything he can to help him. He used costly oil and wine to treat the man’s wounds, let him ride on his animal and walked alongside him, and provided him room and board while he healed.
This is a perfect example of how we should love our neighbor. We should not wait until it is convenient, and we should not stop when it starts to cost us something. We should be quick to give to others, and not think about what we gain from it.
#7 Go the Extra Mile
Not only was the man generous with what he had on hand, but he also promised the innkeeper to pay for any future care the man required until he was healed. In effect, he paid for two nights in advance and left a line of credit open that he would fulfill on behalf of the beaten man.
This went far above and beyond even what the custom of the time dictated, which is already more generous than what our culture expects. A modern comparison would be to use our own jacket as a tourniquet and pay for a two-night hospital stay for a man you see shot on the freeway.
While this is not explicitly commanded by God in the Bible, we are commanded to love and give generously out of our own means, and to go above and beyond in caring for others just like we would for ourselves.
#8 Grow Beyond Your Prejudices
The phrase “good Samaritan” does not simply refer to someone who helps when it’s needed. Samaritans were hated by the Jews of Jesus’ day. They were unfaithful, half-breed mongrels who were to be avoided and shunned at all costs. For a Samaritan to be portrayed as the hero of the story was a shocking twist, but the Samaritan was the only one who acted correctly and who truly kept God’s commandments.
We may be confronted with our own prejudices when God tells us to go somewhere or serve someone. Be open and honest with yourself about how you may have slighted someone, and ask God’s grace to help you change what needs to be changed.
#9 Ask Yourself the Hard Questions
Jesus asked a penetrating question: “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man?” Jesus was confronting the lawyer’s own preconceptions about what was expected of him if he ever came to a similar circumstance, but also asking who was closest to the character of God.
It would have been unthinkable to admit that the religious leaders of the day had failed in their mandate to serve others and honor God, and to acknowledge that a Samaritan was more holy in that situation – but that was precisely the point Jesus wanted to make. He asked the hard questions, and He will always do the same to us.
#10 Be Courageous When Admitting Your Shortcomings
The lawyer was afraid to even say the name “Samaritan,” but he did freely admit that he was the one who did the right thing and not the others. In doing so, he received Jesus’ teaching with humility and an open heart – and provided an example for us to do the same.
#11 Accept the Answers the Bible Gives You, Then Act on Them
Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.” He may have made the lawyer uncomfortable, but Jesus never promises that His plan for our life will make us comfortable. We are told to go to extreme lengths in our love for others, to serve them even when we receive nothing in return but contempt and persecution. That is how we love our neighbor as ourselves because that is the best way to show others that we first love God.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.