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b) Good works: The good samaritan.


Christ told this parable in answer to a Judaic lawyerís question, "Who is my neighbor?" The lawyer knew the Old Testament commandment that instructed one to love oneís neighbor, but he did not act according to this commandment. Wanting to clear himself from fault, he said he did not know who his neighbor was. In response, the Lord gives this parable with the example of the good Samaritan, to explain that one should not care about distinguishing friends from foes, but must make oneself a neighbor to anyone in need.

"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise" (Lk. 10:30-37).

Fearing to help an outsider, a Judean priest and a Levite passed by their brother who was in trouble. But the Samaritan, who did not speculate whether the poor wretched man lying before him was a friend or foe, helped him and saved his life. The Lordís parable of the Samaritanís shows that after his initial aid he also took pains to help the suffererís future, bearing expenses and taking the trouble to ensure his recovery.

The Lordís example of the good Samaritan teaches us to love our neighbors actively, not to confine ourselves to good wishes and the empty expressions of compassion. It is not he who sits in the quiet of his home and dreams of extensive benefaction, but he who helps people in deed, sparing neither time, nor effort nor funds, who loves his neighbor. To help your neighbors, you need not make a program of humanitarian activity: great plans do not always come true. Every day our life offers us chances to manifest our love for people: by giving comfort to someone sorrowing, visiting someone sick, helping him to visit a doctor or prepare business documents, giving to the poor, taking part in church actions or charity, giving good advice, preventing a quarrel, and so forth. Many of these things seem insignificant, but over oneís life one may accumulate them for a real spiritual treasure. Good works are like small amounts of money put into a savings account. As the Lord says, in heaven they will make up a treasure, which moths will not corrupt and thieves cannot steal.

In His wisdom, the Lord permits people to live in various material conditions: some in great prosperity, others in need and some even in dearth. Often a man acquires his material welfare by back-breaking labor, persistence, and skills. However, we shall not deny that the economic and social status of a man is often to a great extent determined by favorable, external conditions, beyond his control. Even the most capable and industrious man may be doomed for poverty in an unfavorable environment, while another, a stupid idler, will enjoy the comforts of life because fortune smiles upon him. Such disposition may seem unjust, but only if our life is considered to be merely natural. The conclusion is totally different if we view these things from the perspective of the future life.

In two parables, that of the unjust steward, and that of the rich man and Lazarus, the Lord Jesus Christ reveals the mystery of God's tolerance for material "injustice." These two parables demonstrate that God wisely transforms apparent, earthly inequality into a means for gaining salvation: tolerance for the poor and suffering, works of charity for the rich. In the light of these two notable parables we can also see how negligible our worldly agonies and riches are when compared to perpetual bliss or perdition. The first parable of <see next chapter>

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