Why do we volunteer? is a series to investigate our motivations behind volunteering and their biblical relevance. While we seem to seek opportunities to serve, we do so for a multitude of reasons. The series began with “Volunteering to love better,” followed by “Volunteering to invest your talents”and “Volunteering to gain new life experience.” For the final week in this series, we are turning to the story of the Good Samaritan to learn even more about volunteering to help meet the needs of others.
As if it’s intentionally connected to our first point in the series, Jesus uses the parable of the Good Samaritan first and foremost as an expression of love, which is quoted in Luke 10:27: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
This teaching comes from the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The man approached the question with a desire to justify himself (v. 29). In search of a loophole, the man wanted a clear cut answer to whom he should love. Yet the answer he gets is not about who your neighbor is, but how to be neighborly.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:30-35)
Here we’re given a picture of not only how to behave, but how not to behave. When Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” It’s clear to us that the Samaritan who chooses to care for a man whom he doesn’t know, acted as a neighbor. It’s not about how much money he spent to provide the medical assistance the man needed, it’s that the Samaritan saw the man in need and sought to provide for those needs.
The one who had mercy is the one who acted as a neighbor. The one who demonstrated care and compassion. The one who took the time to stop and give the half-dead man a second glance. The Good Samaritan shows us how we can be a neighbor to even the stranger as we see their needs and do our best to meet them. For just as the Good Samaritan acted, so Jesus says, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
The Good Samaritan isn’t a formal volunteer, it doesn’t take an application process, or training to do good throughout your day to day life. You can serve no matter where you are, but if you’re looking for an opportunity to invest your time and talents to love your neighbor and provide for their needs, I suggest being intentional about finding a volunteer opportunity that suits your passions. Wherever you are, don’t forget to love your neighbor as yourself – all loopholes aside.
Originally posted on RochesterSA.org.