“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.” Deuteronomy 22:1-4 ESV
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:30-37 ESV
Many years ago in New York City a woman named Kitty Genovese was walking home from work late at night. She was attacked and stabbed by a man. Kitty screamed for help, and some of her neighbors heard her. Some of them called the police, and one of them stayed with her while she died. There were other neighbors, however, who didn’t do anything to help her. A man who was in the lobby of a building nearby ignored what was happening and took a nap. Another man, who was a friend of Kitty’s, was too afraid to do much of anything. He saw what was happening, but he paced inside his apartment and later called some friends instead of the police. Sometimes the story is told that 38 people heard Kitty scream and no one tried to do anything, but that’s not true. However, there were people who ignored what happened and didn’t help.
The same thing happened in Jesus’ story about a man who was beaten up by robbers on a road and left to die. Two men walked by and didn’t do anything to help him. But the third man who came by did everything he could to help. Helping the hurt man cost him money, and was inconvenient, and possibly even dangerous, but that didn’t stop the Samaritan from helping. He was obeying God’s law, which says that if someone needs help, we should help them. Sinning is not just doing bad things. It’s also not doing good things when there is a need. God’s people were supposed to return animals or coats or other property to people who had lost them, and if animals were lost they were to take care of them and feed them until their owners came to get them.
It’s not always easy to help people when they need help. It’s often easier to make excuses when it would cost money or time to do something good for someone. When we see all the needs in the world, it can seem like there’s too much to do, and that we can never do it all. So we sometimes don’t do anything at all. Not helping and doing good when we can is a sin that Jesus came to die for and forgive. Only Jesus did good all the time. He saw our need for a Savior, and even though it cost him pain and suffering and death, he did what we needed to have all our sins forgiven. Jesus forgives us for all the times we don’t help, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us be more loving and giving to people in need.
Dear Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times we don’t help people who need us. Please help us be more like Jesus, our Savior. In His Name, Amen.