“I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, ‘I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable.’ It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 2200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 1200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the ‘Bloody Pass’. And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’” (I’ve Been to the Mountaintop Speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963)
There’s a man that stands on the southbound off ramp of Hampden that flows on to Wadsworth. I’ve seen him there every time I go by there. He’s there in the same dirty clothes – an old pair of ragged boots, oil-stained, dark blue jeans, and a t-shirt too large for his frail frame. His beard is shaggy and unshorn, dirty and grey. His face is a hollow, sagging picture of what used to be. In his old, gnarled fingers he holds a sign which pleads for help of any kind.
And I don’t know what to do. I’ve been told that you should never give money to the homeless because they’ll just blow it on alcohol or drugs. I’ve been told that it doesn’t solve the problem, just adds to it. I’ve been told that people need to get into a system, a home or some shelter, before they should receive help. I’ve been told that people need to know about Jesus first, and the salvation that He can bring, before they should receive help.
But I’ve been told that I need to help my fellow man. “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.” (Deuteronomy 15:10 NLT) “John replied, ‘If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.’” (Luke 3:11 NLT)
To be honest, I can’t imagine Jesus saying, ‘Hey, I’d love to give you this sandwich and wash your feet, but first, let me tell you who I am and how you can have everlasting salvation through me.’ Maybe I’m wrong here, but Jesus took care of the physical needs of those he was helping first. Jesus never said, ‘I’m not going to give you any help because you’ll spend it on wine and prostitutes.’ I believe he just helped the people, knowing that the help was needed. And he knew what the outcome of the results were going to be.
When I drive past this guy I usually have an ashtray full of change. I don’t need it – it sits there for months on end never being used. But I fail time and again to give it to this guy – or anyone else that needs it. It’s really quite messed up, actually, because if it wasn’t for my girlfriend and family, I’d be right where he is. I’m literally one good fight away from being kicked out on the street, and I’m so selfish right now with my money that I won’t give away a few pennies and dimes in my ashtray.
I don’t want people to treat me the same way I treat this man, but why should I expect any less? If I’m not helping him, why should other people help me? Why do I think I am I above this man? I’m no greater than he is, no better than he is, no richer than he is. I’m one day away from being in his shoes.
I don’t want people to look at him or (God forbid) me and think, “If I stop to help him, what’s going to happen to me.” I want them to think, “If I don’t stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
much love. sheth.