The Good Samaritan’s 12 Question Tool

thegoodsamaritanAlthough giving in the Church has been getting bad publicity lately due to the behaviour of a few preachers and tele-evangelists, it is still central to our faith. God demonstrated His love by giving. God gave His only Son, Jesus, to love us and reconcile us to Himself. Giving therefore is a great deal in Christianity. It is especially important when you would like to learn how to steward God’s love in the world. In this respect, what specific kind of giving fits into the framework of God’s love for us?

Well, I am going to share with you a transformative perspective of giving that most people are not aware of on the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

The parable is simple and straight forward. Three persons, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan heading to Jericho at various times, come across a man who has been mortally wounded by robbers. The priest, who is first to arrive at the scene, looks at the wounded man, but proceeds on his way. The second to arrive is the Levite, who also looks at the man and then proceeds on his way. The third to arrive is the Samaritan. He tends to the wounded man, dresses his wounds and takes him to an inn (hospice?) somewhere close by for further attention. The Good Samaritan puts down a deposit for the care of the wounded man and promises to meet any other additional costs on his way back.

After telling the parable, Jesus asks us to go and do likewise.

Conventionally, we tend to see this parable as Jesus asking us to be good neighbours, to be sensitive to the suffering and pain that people around us are going through. Right?

Well, I can tell you that this is a shallow way of understanding the parable. It is not even very effective.

I recently heard of a study (http://faculty.babson.edu/krollag/org_site/soc_psych/darley_samarit.html) where trainee pastors in a seminary were asked to preach something like a five-minute sermon on the Parable of the Good Samaritan to some renowned theologians. The pastors were told that their grades would depend on how well they delivered this high pressure sermon.

In the version I heard, on the way to the auditorium, each one of the trainee pastors would encounter an actor writhing on the floor pretending to be wounded and asking for help. Helping the actor meant missing out on the scheduled time for delivering the sermon. The study found that something like forty percent of the trainee pastors passed by the actor and went on to preach the sermon despite the actor’s rather dramatic pleas. Some even stepped over the actor who sometimes would sprawl across the floor.

I am sure that some in the sixty percent who helped the actor, did it because they probably figured out that this was all part of the test.

A deeper and ultimately better way to understand the parable is to understand Jesus’ words differently. When he asks us to go and do likewise, he is not asking us to be helpful to the person on street who needs help. Rather he is asking us to become the kind of person who helps other. Subtle but significant difference. He is asking us to change our identity and lifestyle. We must become people who cannot walk away from the pain and suffering of others.

When you really think about it, the story of the Good Samaritan did not start on this particular day the man was wounded on the road to Jericho. What we see is the conclusion of a story that started a long time ago. On this particular day, it was too late. The priest could not have acted any differently from how he did. The Levite could not have acted any differently from how he did. And even the Good Samaritan could not have acted any differently from how he did. It was a fait accompli.

Let me show where the parable probably started. The parable probably started with a series of twelve standing questions. I call them the Good Samaritan’s Twelve Question Tool. How each person answered the questions in his life determined how he reacted on that day.

 

THE GOOD SAMARITAN’S TWELVE QUESTION TOOL

1 Do you accept that every situation you encounter has a solution and do you to the best of your ability commit to be the solution?
2 Will you always have a contingency budget when carrying out an activities? And how much would that be?
3 Will you always plan your time such that you can factor in a few unforeseeable events? How much time would that be?
4 Will you always endeavour to know the places you travel to and understand where provisions and amenities can be found?
5 Will you commit to be responsible and take initiative rise to leadership whenever there is a need?
6 Will you commit to know the kinds of risks that one can encounter in any particular field or journey that you undertake?
7 Will you always make default plans of response for each one of the known risks in case they come to pass?
8 Will you commit to network with people, to know how you can support each other later?
9 Is all human life more important to you than profit, prestige, and pleasure?
10 Do you vow never to turn away people based on whether they deserve your assistance or not?
11 Do you commit to turn your giving into a habit?
12 Do you commit to work harder faster and smarter in order to have the resources that you will need to serve others?

 

To each one these questions, the Good Samaritan must have answered “yes.” The priest and the Levite on the other hand must have answered “no” to most if not all of the questions. Notice also that the priest and the Levite probably felt compassion for the wounded man. They could have been pressed for time, or didn’t have the resources.

When Jesus tells us to go and do likewise, I believe he is in fact asking us to consider the Good Samaritan’s Twelve Question Tool and answer them as God answers them, just as the Good Samaritan did when he encountered the wounded man on the road to Jericho. It means to have a strong common sense to living life.

Victorious giving is not something you feel moment-by-moment. It is not something you decide on a case-by-case basis. Rather, it is a lifestyle. You form habits of giving. You come up with routines of giving. You form a culture of giving.

Above everything else, you must learn to give cheerfully. There is no other way of giving. God loves a cheerful giver. It doesn’t matter how much you give. Your yardstick should be that you are giving cheerfully. This means that you should be comfortable to give nothing too, as long as you are doing it cheerfully. Besides, the giving lifestyle is very wide. You can give money, time, skills, networks, material, ideas, prayer and so forth.

In case you are curious, the Good Samaritan’s Twelve Question Tool is quite versatile and it can be used in several situations, from your marriage to business, career, travelling, projects, and education to mention a few.

Except from Stewarding the Love of God.

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