I’ve been working on some sermon prep this week on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Consequently, it’s been on my mind quite a bit this week.  There are a lot of directions to go with this passage, and they are all good.

We could talk about the question “who is my neighbor?”  That’s a key question in the passage from Luke 10:25-37.  It’s the question that sparks the parable in the first place.

We could talk about what it means to love God and love one’s neighbor.  There’s a lot of rich material in it.

We could talk about the importance of breaking down barriers, of being aware of the barriers that we have in our lives in the first place.

But, for whatever reason, Jesus’ emphasis on action is what caught my eye this time around.  “Go and do likewise.”  That’s the charge that he gives to his audience.  The charge to go and show mercy to those in need.  You see, the lawyer that asked the question in the first place wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.  He wants to spend eternity in the kingdom of God.  Who doesn’t, right?

He knows the right answer.  He knows that one must love God and love one’s neighbor in order to inherit eternal life.  I guess he is one of those people that asks questions even when he is already confident of the answer.  But then he goes one more step; a step he probably regrets by the end of the story.  He wants to know, “who is my neighbor?”  That’s when Jesus hits us with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Needless to say, the lawyer was a little less enthusiastic about Jesus’ response when the Samaritan turns out to be the good guy in the story.  And then he throws down the challenge to “go and do likewise.”

Faith is more than just right thinking.  It’s not just about knowing correct theology.  It’s about doing the right thing.  It’s about living out that faith that we like to keep tucked away in our heads and hearts.  It’s about living it out.  And that’s the hard thing about this story.

The Good Samaritan did the right thing.  He didn’t just think, “Ah, man, somebody should help that guy.”  He got down off his donkey (or whatever his mode of transportation was) and helped the guy.  And he did so at great personal risk.

It could have been a trap.  The man on the side of the road could have just been waiting for some poor sucker to stop and try to help, and then his buddies would jump out from behind the rocks, beat the tar out of him and take everything he had.  But that didn’t deter the Samaritan.  He stopped and helped a man who was in need.

And the truth is, I think most people want to be like the Samaritan in this story.  We want to help people.  We want to do the right thing.  But we don’t want to be too inconvenienced by it.  We don’t want it to mess with our schedules, our plans.  We want to help people, but we want to do it on our own terms.

When you watch the news at night, read the paper in the morning, or catch up on what’s going on in the world via social media, do you sit back, shake your head and wonder, “What is this world coming to?  Somebody should do something about this.”  What if that somebody is you, but you don’t want to get up and do anything about it?  What if we went from thinking that somebody should do something to actually getting up and doing something?

I think this is something we struggle with in the church.  Churches are full of people that want to help somebody, but think that somebody else should be taking care of the bigger issues.  Churches do a great job of collecting things.  Just this year at Smith Valley UMC, we have collected groceries for the food pantry, combs for health kits at Annual Conference, and we are currently collecting school supplies for kids in Johnson County.  And these are all good great things!  They are things that need to be done in order to help support those in need.  It’s one way that we can give back from what God has given us.  It’s one way that we can be involved.  But is it enough?

What if churches started addressing the societal structures that cause the need for food pantries?  What if we took seriously the need to look at economic inequality in our society?  What if we began to address issues of poverty from a structural level?  What if we began to work on issues of fair wage, unemployment, job training, financial responsibility?  What if, instead of collecting items for health kits – or, rather, in addition to collecting these items – what if we sent a team of people to help those in need directly?  I mean, really, do the people in West Virginia who have lost everything in flooding want a comb or help rebuilding their home?

I’ll be the first to admit that I have no clue how to go about addressing such issues.  I don’t know what organizations are already doing something like this.  I don’t know how to get involved and help on a very practical level.  And so, I go to Target, buy a few extra groceries, combs or school supplies, put them in a collection box and make sure they get to where they need to go.  Again, there’s nothing wrong with doing this.  It’s is an entry level way to help those in need.  But, sometimes, I think that we think it is enough.  It’s easy.  It doesn’t challenge us.  It fits into our schedules and comfortable lives.

Are we imitating the Good Samaritan with this type of thinking?  Or are we settling for being the Good Enough Samaritan?  Again, I don’t have all the answers.  I just have some questions that I’m wrestling with, and an invitation for you to join me in the ring.