What was the most memorable image from watching the recent hurricane(s) and flood?
1. James 1.27 is a thoroughly memorizable verse. What do we learn about Christian living from this verse? What is the application?
True religion means visiting orphans and widows. Why does James say this? He understood that true righteousness is people-oriented. Our prayers are worthless if they do not result in the care of people. In the ancient world the orphan and the widow were almost helpless in society. They had financial stress, legal impotency, and, above all, the emotional stress of the pain of loneliness.
We now have government programs to aid orphans and widows financially. They have some legal rights. But the estate of widowhood or orphanhood is still not pleasant. They—and all other people who are lonely and helpless—still need the outreach of love. Societal institutions may change, but the requirement to show compassion to those in need stays the same. Piety without compassion is a lie. It turns the Golden Rule into rust.
We please the loving God when we obey the Golden Rule. We please Him when we pursue justice and mercy and when we practice loyal love. We please Him when we treat others as we wish to be treated. We please Him when we reach out to the forgotten and the downtrodden.
These, rules of Scripture for righteous living, weigh far more than concerns about a “spiritual” life that precludes drinking, smoking, and cursing.
Righteousness has rules, but it is more than rules. If we care for rules without caring for people, we have missed the goal of righteousness. The scriptural rules come from God precisely because He cares about people.
We need rules to be righteous, but they must be the right rules. They must be God’s rules. We may accept no substitutes. In God’s Word we find adequate rules for pleasing God with a righteous life. And if we abide by those rules, we are not goal-less fanatics, but true children of the King. — R. C. Sproul, Pleasing God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1988), 38–39.
2. Can you think of other verses that speak to this theme?
We will be turning to the story of the good Samaritan and could have done so without this introductory question. However, I think it is best to help people to test and discover.
3. Luke 10.29 – 37. As we read this familiar story, look for anything about this story that you have not noticed before.
What made the Where’s Waldo series of books so insanely popular? Why is the game “Hide and Seek” so perennially popular with children? What is it about looking for something that is just so much fun?
Well, I’ll leave the philosophical answers to those questions to the philosophers. Let’s talk about how we can put this basic human dynamic to work. We all love to look for things.
Here’s the key: when you read the Word, give them something to look for. — Josh Hunt, The Effective Bible Teacher, 2013.
4. If you have a smart phone, look for a picture of the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. What did this road look like? Where might you go in the United States to film it?
FIRST, let us look at the scene of this story. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a notoriously dangerous road. Jerusalem is 2,300 feet above sea level; the Dead Sea, near which Jericho stood, is 1,300 feet below sea level. So then, in somewhat less than twenty miles, this road dropped 3,600 feet. It was a road of narrow, rocky passages, and of sudden turnings which made it the happy hunting-ground of brigands. In the fifth century Jerome tells us that it was still called ‘The Red, or Bloody Way’. In the nineteenth century it was still necessary to pay safety money to the local Sheiks before one could travel on it. As late as the early 1930s the travel writer H. V. Morton tells us that he was warned to get home before dark, if he intended to use the road, because a certain Abu Jildah was an adept at holding up cars and robbing travellers and tourists, and escaping to the hills before the police could arrive. When Jesus told this story, he was telling about the kind of thing that was constantly happening on the Jerusalem to Jericho road. — William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 164–165.
5. Who was the first man to pass by? What do we know about him?
There was the priest. He hastened past. No doubt he was remembering that anyone who touched a dead man was unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:11). He could not be sure but he feared that the man was dead; to touch him would mean losing his turn of duty in the Temple; and he refused to risk that. He set the claims of ceremonial above those of charity. The Temple and its liturgy meant more to him than human suffering. — William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 165.
6. The Levite was the second man to pass by. What do we know about Levites?
There was the Levite. He seems to have gone nearer to the man before he passed on. The bandits were in the habit of using decoys. One of their number would act the part of a wounded man; and when some unsuspecting traveller stopped over him, the others would rush upon him and overpower him. The Levite was a man whose motto was, ‘Safety first’. He would take no risks to help anyone else. — William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 165–166.
7. Both these men passed by on the other side. Why on the other side?
If we know we are not going to do anything to help, we tend to move away from problems. We don’t want to feel. We don’t want to see.
8. What do we know about Samaritans back in the day?
There was the Samaritan. The listeners would obviously expect that with his arrival the villain had arrived. He may not have been racially a Samaritan at all. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans and yet this man seems to have been a kind of commercial traveller who was a regular visitor to the inn. In John 8:48 the Jews call Jesus a Samaritan. The name was sometimes used to describe someone who was considered a heretic and a breaker of the ceremonial law. Perhaps this man was a Samaritan in the sense of being one whom orthodox good people despised.
We note two things about him.
(1) His credit was good! Clearly the innkeeper was prepared to trust him. He may have been theologically unsound, but he was an honest man.
(2) He alone was prepared to help. A heretic he may have been, but the love of God was in his heart. It is not uncommon to find the orthodox more interested in dogmas than in help and to find those whom the orthodox despise to be the ones who show the greatest love for others. In the end we will be judged not by the creed we hold but by the life we live. — William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 166.
9. What did the Good Samaritan feel?
Mercy means to pity, to have compassion, and to show gracious favor. The gift of mercy has the three basic ingredients of feeling pity, displaying cheerfulness, and acting to relieve the need. It springs from divine love that acts in Christ’s name with the object of glorifying God. Whenever Jesus was moved with compassion He acted to heal the blind (Matt. 20:30-34), the lepers (Luke 17:11-14), and the sick (Matt. 8:16, 17). His whole life on earth demonstrated compassion.
The good Samaritan had all the characteristics of a believer with the gift of mercy (Luke 10:29-37):
1. He saw the stranger and was moved with compassion (v. 33).
2. He was drawn to the stranger who was hurt (v. 34).
3. He acted by binding up the man’s wounds (v. 34).
4. He was sensitive to the embarrassment of the stranger who would not be able to pay, so he paid the bill (v. 35).
5. He had the ability to discern the inn keeper’s sincerity in continuing the proper care (v. 35).
John E. Packo, Find & Use Your Spiritual Gifts (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1980).
10. What did the Good Samaritan do?
By definition, serving others means being willing to make sacrifices for their good. A supreme example of this is the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. He sacrificed time by stopping to help the wounded traveler. He sacrificed his possessions by bandaging and dressing the man’s wounds. He sacrificed his personal transportation by carrying the man to an inn. He sacrificed his life by taking care of the man personally. And he sacrificed his money by giving a day’s wages and in essence a blank check to an innkeeper for the continued care of the wounded man.
Do you think the Good Samaritan had a positive impact? Without a doubt! When you serve, then, don’t focus on what you’ve given up, but on what others have gained. — Jim George, One-Minute Insights for Men (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2013).
11. We call this the story of the Good Samaritan. We are quite familiar with it. It doesn’t really get our attention. How would they have seen it? Read for emotion. How would the people have responded emotionally as they heard this story?
Jesus illustrated this welcoming spirit by inventing a story in which someone normally viewed as a stranger goes the extra mile and becomes the one who welcomes. In a culture in which the only good Samaritan was a dead Samaritan, Jesus created a “stranger”—a Samaritan who resembled himself. Try to be one of Jesus’ listeners to this story and imagine the shock and perhaps revulsion you might have felt (see Luke 10:25–37).
First, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho is steep and scary—perhaps a robbery has occurred there the day before Jesus tells this story. The priest and the Levite who do not stop to help the injured man are simply doing the sensible, no-brainer thing. They watch out for themselves; what if the robber is hanging around and plans to attack them?
Jesus portrayed the one we call the Good Samaritan as being full of empathy. (I picture him as actor Morgan Freeman.) He helps the beaten man, not concerning himself that a Jew wouldn’t want our hero touching him. The Samaritan easily puts himself in another person’s shoes because thinking and feeling with others is part of who he is. He also seems to be the kind of person who helps people automatically. He doesn’t have to think, I’d better do a good deed today. It isn’t a duty—he’s not part of the Jerusalem-to-Jericho Road Safety Program. If you drop a piece of paper, he automatically stoops to pick it up. Then he winks at you and goes on. Helping is no big deal to him.
While we may limit our service to designated serving roles (such as serving as a priest or a Levite), the Samaritan serves without a special role. All three see the wounded man, but only the Samaritan has compassion. He serves without self-consciousness, title, or position. Serving is part of how he lives and breathes. — Jan Johnson, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 71–72.
12. What is the lesson of this story?
The story is told of a little boy who came home from Sunday school after learning about the good Samaritan. His mother, as was her custom, asked what the teacher talked about in class that morning. The lad related the parable in great detail. He had all the facts straight and all the people in their right character roles. Then she inquired, “And what is that story meant to teach us? Why did Jesus tell it?” The little boy replied immediately, “It means that when we are in trouble others should come to help us.” — D.J.D., Our Daily Bread, Friday, August 22 / Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002).
13. We have all seen the news of recent storms. What is the appliction for us of this passage in light of recent storms.
We can pray. We can go and serve. We can give.
14. Have any of you ever served on a Disaster Relief team? Who has a story?
EDITOR’S NOTE: (Updated Aug. 26) Southern Baptists are calling for prayer in response to Hurricane Harvey that struck the Texas coast late Friday evening as a devastating Category 4 storm. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has declared a public health emergency in the state. Frank S. Page, SBC Executive Committee president and CEO, said in a statement, “Our prayers go out to the people of Texas in the massive flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Our Baptist disaster relief units will be the first on the scene to minister in a variety of ways. I call on Southern Baptists to pray and be ready to assist through giving and going. God bless Texas.”
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (BP) -- Hurricane Harvey is targeting Texas and appears to be doing “nothing ordinary but everything extraordinary,” said Wally Leyerle, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) disaster relief associate.
Churches in the storm surge area have encouraged their members to evacuate or take proper precautions. Most coastal churches have cancelled Sunday services, the Southern Baptist TEXAN reported.
Forecasters predict Hurricane Harvey will make landfall on the Gulf Coast near Port Lavaca and Corpus Christi, between midnight Friday and early morning Saturday bringing 125 mph winds and 12-foot storm surges. As of Friday morning, Hurricane Harvey has progressed to a Category 3 storm. Emergency officials are calling for immediate evacuation of the Texas Gulf Coast.
A “life threatening storm surge inundation” is possible, the National Weather Service stated, and a “slow drift” of the storm may result in severe flooding south of the Interstate 10 corridor.
“We are readying all of our teams for long-term response to this disaster as this part of Texas hasn’t had a hurricane like this in 47 years,” Leyerle said. “Because of how dense and how much water this storm is carrying, the damage could be extreme.”
SBTC Disaster Relief has joined emergency response teams including Texas Baptist Men, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the American Red Cross and police and fire departments.
Southern Baptists in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi also are readying volunteers and equipment. Around 3,000 to 4,000 SBDR volunteers nationwide are poised to respond.
“SBTC Disaster Relief has pledged to help Texans recover from the aftermath of the hurricane,” Leyerle said. “Feeding units are capable of preparing up to 80,000 meals a day if needed. Recovery units stand ready to help remove fallen tree limbs, clear roadways and tarp homes. Other units are poised to provide showers for survivors and volunteers, purify water, assess needs of homeowners and provide childcare. Chaplain teams are prepared to provide spiritual counseling.” http://www.bpnews.net/49430/hurricane-harvey--baptist-dr-poised-for-relief-aid
15. What keeps us from serving? Why don’t we do more than we do?
I consider myself to be a compassionate person—if I came across someone in need, I like to think I’d stop and help out in any way that I could. In fact, most Christians think of themselves as caring people, willing to show love and goodwill to others. What could desensitize us? What could possibly change us into people who could just pass right by when someone obviously needs assistance?
Back in 1970, two researchers wanted to explore this question. To do so, they recruited several people preparing for the ministry to participate in a study. The volunteers were assigned a message to prepare—some of them were told to talk on the jobs for which a seminary student would be effective, while others were assigned the parable of the good Samaritan.
After responding to a questionnaire, the seminarians were asked to report to another building to give their talks. The schedule was such that some of them were placed in a high-hurry situation, some in a medium-hurry situation—and others were in no hurry at all, having been given plenty of time to arrive at the follow-up location.
While in transit, the subjects had to cut through an alley and pass a slumped “victim,” placed there by the researchers. According to a personal analysis of the study provided by Richard Beck, associate professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University, the plant was “sitting slumped against the wall, head down and eyes closed.… Basically, they [sic] showed signs of abdominal pain. As the seminarians passed, the key variable was recorded: Would they stop to check on the groaning person?”1 Surely they all would, or most of them? After all, they were training for a helping profession, and certainly the ones who had the lessons of the Good Samaritan at the front of their minds would stop and see what they could do to assist. They’d be aware of the situational irony and concerned about the hypocrisy. They would stop … wouldn’t they?
Here’s how it turned out:
Overall, only 40 percent offered some help to the staged victim. But look a little closer—consider how the hurry variable affected the results:
Low hurry—63 percent stopped to help.
High hurry—10 percent stopped to help.2
Only 10 percent of the students who were in a big rush bothered to stop! In fact, Beck explained that some of the seminarians literally stepped over the slumped person as they rushed to deliver their sermons on the Good Samaritan. — Ann Kroeker, Not so Fast (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009).
16. Let’s don’t be too negative. What does Disaster Relief do?
During 2015, the North American Mission Board Disaster Relief Team partnered with state conventions, associations and churches to bring help, healing and hope following disasters and traumatic events. These events were the results of civil unrest, fires, tornadoes, ice storms, floods and earthquakes.
Through these partnerships Southern Baptists mobilized more than 5,000 volunteers in 2015. These volunteers assisted over 3,000 homeowners with the clean-up of their disaster-damaged property and saw more than 300 people profess new-found belief in Jesus Christ.
The team completed the work of coordinating a three-year project to assist residents with repairs following Super Storm Sandy. During the three-year engagement more than 14,000 volunteers provided 75,000 volunteer days and assisted 3,047 families with their recovery needs. NAMB helped start a rebuild project in 2015 to repair homes in Southeast Michigan, where more than 130,000 homes were flooded in late 2014. https://www.namb.net/about/annualreport
17. What benefits come to those who give?
It has long been said that it’s better to give than receive.
Now scientists have revealed that the benefits of generosity extend beyond a warm glow.
Providing tangible help to others appears to protect our health and lengthens our lives, they claim.
A five-year study of 846 individuals found that when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not.
Stressful experiences included such things as serious illness, burglary, job loss, financial difficulties or death of a family member.
Respondents reported the amount of time in the past 12 months they had spent helping friends, neighbours or relatives not living with them by providing transport, running errands, doing shopping, performing housework, looking after children and other tasks.
Michael J. Poulin, of the University at Buffalo in the US, said: ‘This study offers a significant contribution…to our understanding of how giving assistance to others may offer health benefits to the giver by buffering the negative effects of stress.’
He added: ‘Our conclusion is that helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.’
18. What benefits come to those who serve?
There’s something gratifying about volunteering. Whenever I work a charity event—which I try to do with some regularity—I often get more out of it than I give.
I already knew about the mental health benefits of volunteering. Studies have shown that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression. But I was surprised to learn that volunteering has positive implications that go beyond mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.
Evidence of volunteerism’s physical effects can be found in a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University, published this month in Psychology and Aging. Adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. High blood pressure is an important indicator of health because it contributes to heart disease, stroke, and premature death. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428
19. Do you ever feel like, “The problems are so big, it is overwhelming. What can I do to help when I am just one and the problems are so ginormous?” What are we to do when we feel this way?
I recently read about an old man, walking the beach at dawn, who noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up with the youth, he asked what he was doing. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun.
‘But the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are millions of starfish,’ countered the man. ‘How can your effort make any difference?’
The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves. ‘It makes a difference to this one,’ he said.” — Hugh Duncan, Leadership Journal / Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002).
20. What is one thing you could to this week to help someone in need?
21. How can we pray for one another this week?