The Parable of the Good Samaritan: 5 Lessons Learned

Good Samaritan

England’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once observed, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions – he had money too.”  Of course the Good Samaritan was not an actual historical figure; he was a fictional man in a story that Jesus told to a religious legalist who was trying to justify his unwillingness to walk the walk.  The story goes like this:

A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.  By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.  Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.  Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.  The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’  “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.  The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”   Luke 10:30-37 NLT

Lessons from the Good Samaritan Story

1. He was willing to get involved.

We may quote scripture and recite platitudes on love and God, but unless we are willing to get involved in the lives of others, we are only blowing smoke.  The Samaritan treated and bandaged the wounds.  He set the injured man on his donkey.  He took him to an inn and cared for him throughout the night.  The Samaritan could have said to himself, “I give regularly to my church.  I donate to the Salvation Army every Christmas.  I have done my part.”  But he didn’t.  As the scriptures say, he had compassion . . . and he acted on it.

2. He ignored racism.

Even though he was considered a “despised Samaritan”, he rose above such shallowness to care for a fellow human being.  I compare the Samaritan’s actions to an American 19th century slave showing compassion to a plantation owner or a Jewish prisoner demonstrating concern for a Nazi guard during WWII.

3. He had money.

Margaret Thatcher was absolutely spot on: this was a man who managed his money.   He undoubtedly lived on a budget, spent less than he made and maintained a contingency fund for unexpected expenses.  My wife and I fully realize that we need to be very intentional if we are going to have such a giving fund, so we place cash into a “bless envelope” every month.  Knowing that money is there has raised our antennae to the needs around us.

4. He had a good name.

One wonders if the Samaritan had been to that inn before, perhaps paying for some other needy person’s stay.  We know this:  the innkeeper trusted the Samaritan, probably because he had proven himself to be trustworthy.

5. He was generous.

The Samaritan didn’t know how long the injured man would be laid up, but I am guessing (because the text said the attack left him “half dead”), that it could be a prolonged stay.  At any rate, the wellbeing of this stranger was more important to our Good Samaritan than whatever the cost might be.  Again, this generosity would never have been possible if he hadn’t had money in the first place.

The central message of this story is that, if we are to be good neighbors, we need to be more like the Samaritan.  The implied message is to get strong financially and stay strong financially so we can have the means to act on our good intentions.

Jesus concludes with this admonition, “Go and do likewise.”  When we learn this lesson, we, and the world around us, will be better for it.

Are you ready to get strong financially? Begin with the free Getting Started course at ChristianPF.

How will you follow Jesus’ challenge to “Go and do likewise”?  What additional lessons from the Good Samaritan can you think of?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. Mike Pearcey

    NO good deed goes unpunished! Be aware satan will try to get even using people against you that you never thought would harm you. Do it any ways God is good weven in this.

    • Joe Plemon

      Mike — I suppose that there are times when some people would try to use our good deeds against us, but I don’t think I have ever factored that into my decisions. I try to focus on God and let the chips fall where they will.

  2. Adam Faughn

    Great list! I would add one more: He didn’t ask what needed to be done. While that is part of your #1 on the list, I think too many of us wait until we research every possible “need,” instead of just seeing a need and meeting it. We must avoid paralysis of analysis to truly be effective in helping people.

    • Joe Plemon

      Adam — great point. I just love it when people jump in and do what obviously needs to be done. “Paralysis of analysis” (besides being a great phrase) can be a great detriment to spontaneous ministry.

  3. Jason Clayton

    Good points to remember. It’s clear to me that Jesus was emphasizing the 2nd commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that he meant all our neighbors – not just those we already like. One way we can love our neighbors is to provide for them financially. This is always a challenge as we have a hard time accepting that our finances are not entirely for ourselves, but should be used (and were intended) to bless others.

    Also, this is a great way to share and glorify Christ. I remember working as a waiter in college and the other staff hated working Sundays because the ‘church people’ were cheap. As a Christian this saddened me, because ‘the church people’ should have be known as the most generous that came through the door… Think of all the opportunities lost to present Christ to a lost world, due to a few bucks that were held so tightly…

    The good Samaritan teaches me that our finances are a primary way we love our neighbor, worship our Lord, and share Him as well.

    • Joe Plemon

      Jason — I too have heard about waiters who don’t want to work Sundays because of the tight fisted church people. Very sad! But hearing that inspires me to be all the more generous.

    • Victoria

      I have to admit, I used to be one of those tight-fisted christian tippers, but the Lord has taught me so much about generosity and how we are blessed to be a blessing to others, that I now look forward to opportunities to give back as much as I can. After all, I am just a steward…it all belongs to God.

    • Joe Plemon

      Isn’t being a steward a great thing? I have also heard the term “property manager” used. Like you said, it all belongs to God, so we property managers/stewards have no business being tight fisted with possessions that aren’t ours in the first place.

  4. Joseph Lalonde

    I’ll be honest, point 5 is something I struggle with. Being generous with my finances has been tough. And it created a lot of tension between my wife and I when we first married.

    She loved to give and give and give. I liked to give but didn’t see it with the importance she did. I also liked to be secure in what I had. Knowing that there was something that I could fall back on.

    I’ve slowly but surely become more generous. Some days I doubt myself and begin to go back to the old habits.

    • Joe Plemon

      Joseph — I hear you. Giving and generosity does not come easily for me either. It is a discipline and not nearly as spontaneous as it should be. Yet, over the years, as I have become more and more intentional about being generous, I have found myself wanting to be more generous. There is hope!


    Giving like a good samaritan is a gift from the Lord.Often we see people having but very difficult to help the neighbor.
    Before we started the Ruth Group,we were faced with a lot of problems of basic needs.Due to our contributions to each individual a time, the problem tended to be solved.
    We also started calling the Lord to be our provider and guider among us,we are now atleast able to support ourselves and the few need families in feeding and education to the children.By so doing,we do obey “Go and do likewise.”
    The bible says,ask in the name of the Lord and you will be given.
    In the trust of the Lord,we believe we will get a good samaritan to uplift us in support the more families and children so as they may come to ”do likewise” and in the Glory of the Lord.Amen

  6. Mike Pearcey

    Be careful never get between God and his correction.