What about the next day?

My oldest son’s favorite Bible story is the Good Samaritan, even though he covers his ears during the part where the robbers attack the traveler. We probably read it at least once a month, and we’ve even acted it out before, with props, in the living room.

But it wasn’t until the day that I spent with Robert Egger last fall that I started to wonder–if everyone knew that that stretch of highway was so dangerous, why didn’t anyone do anything about it?

I’m sure there’s some explanation, you know, about how hard it was to find good police officers back in ancient times, or about how the terrain around Jerico was difficult to police anyway.

But this post isn’t really about the Good Samaritan, anyway, but about the many ways in which we still glorify Good Samaritans today, without asking that critical question–what are we doing to reduce the highway robberies in the first place?

Robert asked that question as part of a conversation about the starfish story–his point, I think, was that the story of the Good Samaritan ends with the Samaritan leaving the money with the innkeeper. It doesn’t say what happened the next day, even though there’s a pretty good chance that some other unlucky traveler met the same fate, on the same road, this time without someone to come along to the rescue.

But it’s really what didn’t happen before that violent encounter, and what should happen next, that matter the most in that story. There will never be enough Good Samaritans to go around and, besides, shouldn’t they be able to spend their money on something other than medicine and lodging for those routinely robbed?

Because we often know what the problems are, just as everyone seemed to in this story. We know that our health care system means that people without insurance will need Good Samaritans to pay for life-saving treatment. We know that our fractured “child welfare” system depends on Good Samaritans to rescue the children who fall through the cracks. We know that the inadequacy of our public education system requires Good Samaritans to swoop in with scholarships and private donations. We know that the poverty and lack of opportunity that plague many communities in our country create conditions where only Good Samaritans can save families from the dismal reality of their surroundings.

I’m not in the Samaritan-bashing business.

As I’ve said before, the life-changing work that we do in direct service meets real needs and soothes our own souls.

But we need to ask ourselves the question: What happens the next day?

Who’s going to make that stretch of highway safer?

Let’s write that story together.

2 responses to “What about the next day?

  1. Great reflection! We have to work for both Charity (direct service) and Justice (addressing root causes). So often the message from Christianity seems to emphasize Charity but I think if we look closer at all the Bible says about poverty and injustice, we see that the long-term work of restoring Justice through social structures is just as important.

    • Thank you so much! Yes, I couldn’t agree more–my faith, and the way that I try to teach and model for my kids, demands both. I think, sometimes, that addressing injustice just seems even more daunting (not that charity is always easy for us to live up to, either), so we tend to try to gloss over it. Thank you for reading!

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