When We Can’t Do Good

WEDNESDAY’S WORD

We’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan numerous times. A lawyer wishing to justify himself asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And our Lord launches into a story of this poor guy travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, who gets attacked by robbers and is left for dead. The priest and the Levite see his limp body and pass by, but the good Samaritan stops to help.

And Jesus says to the lawyer who asked the question, “Go and do likewise”. The Samaritan is the model do-gooder. So it seems.

But I wonder if Jesus was countering the lawyer’s legalism and emphasis on performance with another legalism: “Go and do likewise.” Was it meant to show the lawyer that truth without wisdom and God’s guidance is a trap?

I know of someone who gave two years of her time trying to help her neighbor who was in an abusive relationship. She listened to her neighbor’s story; she met the abusive boyfriend. She heard the daily quarrels, she was there when police were called.  

My dear friend, whose motto is “Do Good,” asked me to come and help. I came, and after 2 hours of listening to her neighbor, I came to the conclusion that she didn’t want help, she didn’t want advice, she didn’t want prayer — although she had said so the day before. She only wanted an additional person to listen to her daily drama.

“One and done,” as my American friend would say. I left.

You cannot help those who don’t want to be helped — even if you see that they desperately need it.   

Here’s another illustration:  

A well-known prophet was the son of missionaries in Brazil, living deep in the jungle, next to the Amazon river. Every so often, his evangelist father would take his motor boat and chug off to preach the gospel to the villagers, tend to new believers, or go down the river a long way off to get fresh supplies. The river was unpredictable. Sometimes, there were storms and the waves would be so rough that ships could be wrecked in the rocks below. 

On one such day, when his father had taken his boat down the river, a storm arose. The wind and the waves were violent, and a ship was wrecked. They heard sailors screaming for help. But there was only his mother and the children. He remembered standing there, watching the sailors struggling in the water and knowing that he didn’t have the strength to swim out, and his mother was standing at the banks, helpless, because she didn’t have the strength either.

After an eternity, they heard the sound of their father’s motorboat in the distance. Father had the boat, father knew where the rocks were, father had the strength and the equipment to help. And his father saved everyone.  

Some of you may be struggling with the fact that you saw someone in need, and you couldn’t help. You were too young, or you didn’t have the strength, or you didn’t have the wisdom. And every time you hear the story of the Good Samaritan, you are reminded of your “failure”, and the devil is tormenting you with that memory. 

God who sees all things, sees your heart. The Lord recognizes your desire to do good. He also knows that you didn’t have the strength, the wisdom and the resources to help.  

Let go of that toxic memory; leave it on the Cross.

// Prayer //

I command the accuser of the brethren to leave; you will no longer condemn those who couldn’t help because they were too young, they didn’t have the strength, the knowledge, the wisdom to help someone in need; Lord, will you remove the poison of those accusations, restore their soul and give them peace. Grant them insight and knowledge of Your true heart towards them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.