The Story of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37, is often taught by Pastors and Bible teachers to motivate their church to “Love your neighbor as yourself” by doing good deeds as the Good Samaritan did.
In teaching this, they totally miss the context of the story and the reason Jesus told the story.
Jesus’ purpose in telling this story was not to get the average church member to do good deeds.
His purpose was to confront the self-righteousness of an expert in the law, most likely a Pharisee, who asked him a question.
The expert in the law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, meaning to live forever in the kingdom of God.
He asked this to test Jesus.
He did not really want to know the answer to his question, but he wanted to see how Jesus would answer the question, hoping Jesus would downplay the law as the standard of righteousness a person must meet to gain eternal life.
Jesus answered the man’s question by asking a question.
He asked the expert in the law what the law said a person must do to inherit eternal life.
The man answered by quoting the law’s two great commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Jesus replied to him, telling him “Do this and you will live.”
The expert in the law then asked Jesus another question.
He asked Jesus who is a person’s neighbor.
To answer this man’s question, Jesus tells a story about good Samaritan.
This story is directed specifically at the expert in the law to confront his self-righteousness because this man was confident he had obeyed the two great commandments and was deserving of eternal life.
In this story, Jesus demonstrates to the expert that he had not loved his neighbor as he loved himself, and as a result, had not loved God with all his heart, all his soul, all his strength, and all his mind; thus, disqualifying him entrance into God’s eternal kingdom.
The story consists of four men and some thieves.
The thieves had stripped, beat, and robbed a man, leaving him on the road to die.
Two men, one a priest and the other a Levi, passed by the man, noticing but not helping him.
Another man, a Samaritan, helped the man.
Jesus then asked the expert which one of the men in the story was a neighbor to the one who had been robbed.
The expert said it was the man who did good.
Jesus then told the expert in the law to do as the Samaritan did to gain eternal life.
This was shocking to the expert in the law because he hated the Samaritan.
He hated him so much that he could not even say the word “Samaritan” in the story, only referring to him as “the one who did good”.
Now Jesus is telling the expert in the law to love like the one he hates.
In doing this, Jesus reveals to the man that he had broken the two great commandments by having hate in his heart toward the Samaritan.
In context, we see the purpose of the story was to convince the expert in the law of his inability to obey the two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
And by doing so, to convince the man of his need for grace to enter the kingdom of God...the same grace the prostitutes and the tax collectors needed.
Not only could the expert in the law not obey the two great commandments, none of us can.
As we learned in chapter five, none of us can love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind, nor can we love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
That is the point of Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan.
We are all in need of grace to enter God’s kingdom.
This is an excerpt from my book, The Story of Grace. To purchase The Story of Grace, click below.
The Story of Grace