My version of the famous parable, “The Good Samaritan”


“The Good Samaritan” is one of the more famous parables of Jesus, told after he was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Martin Luther King, Jr. made a long reference to this parable on the night before he was assassinated in his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech.

The story is of a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of a road in a dangerous place. The local people who could have stopped to help him did not, and they excused themselves due to their “important” obligations. However, a Samaritan did stop, and he went out of his way to make sure the injured man was taken care of, not just for that moment but afterwards.

The significance of the parable lies in the fact that Samaritans were considered “unworthy” by the audience Jesus was addressing. This would be roughly the equivalent of a Black man stopping to help a white man who was alone and injured in an unsafe area. While there were white people who passed by, they didn’t stop. Instead, a Black man, considered by the people in that community to be “unworthy,” went to great lengths to make sure the injured man would be treated and safe.

The word “Samaritan” has been used to represent anyone who is an outsider by the standards of a society or group. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the crowd of sanitation workers in this way:

The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve been to the mountaintop”


A legal scholar once asked Jesus how he could live forever. After Jesus vetted his knowledge a bit, the man finally asked, “who is my neighbor?” That is what prompted this story:

A man was traveling between two cities when he was attacked, robbed, and left on the side of the road to die. Because this man was from that area, it seemed like someone would help him. However, people were too busy on their way to do various things, most of which were unimportant but gave them more status than helping this man would. They must have felt some combination of fear and guilt, since they even crossed to the other side of the road, lest they decided to help.

Eventually, a man from out of the area came by and, without much thought, almost instinctively went to see what was going on. He was actually on the opposite side of the road – going the other way – but he crossed over when he heard the man crying for help.

Now, it turned out this man in the ditch, while known by many people, was a bit divisive. However, the Samaritan didn’t care, either before or after he helped get the man out of the ditch. Most were completely indifferent, but one or two plotted against both the Samaritan and the ditched person, as they didn’t like the attention being on anyone but themselves.

Even though many kept the Samaritan around only because he provided a decent level of entertainment, some identified as his “friend,” at least behind closed doors (as it wasn’t good to acknowledge being a friend with a Samaritan). Having a Samaritan friend was a benefit, they soon discovered because he was eager to help get people out of ditches when others were not.

Unfortunately, the Samaritan did not understand the language as well as he thought, and he was confused by the unwritten customs of the area, so he was constantly being fooled by some of the more proud and devious individuals. Ironically, because of this translation problem, it was easy to accuse him of being devious as well. Ultimately, he just became confused and assumed it was all his fault. After all, he still was a Samaritan.

Finally, the Samaritan said to himself, “It doesn’t matter to whom I’d have listened. The result is fairly predictable, given a large sample size from the past. What an idiot I was to think this would be any different, except the delusion seemed more real at times. These people have refined anti-Samaritan skills.”

Realizing he was no longer welcome, he started down the road again. He was not quite alone, as his loyal dog, ever oblivious to the difficulties of the world, happily ran beside him. In fairness, the people were a bit sad to see the strange man go, since they loved his perpetually (and toxically) positive dog.

When the disciples heard these words, they asked Jesus, “what does this all mean?” He replied, “the moral of the story is that people you are willing to help get out of a ditch may be more than willing to leave you alone in the ditch while they go down the road without you. After all, they still are more important than a Samaritan.


Helping someone out does not mean they will actually like you. Being the subject of a good story doesn’t keep you from being an outsider – outsiders make good examples, not friends. Jesus liked to point out how the outsiders were “not bad,” but that didn’t make them “insiders.” It’s not possible to “make” friends; you just have to hope someone actually likes you for reasons you can’t really figure out.

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