Thought for the Week - 3rd JunePastor Gareth Watkins
Luke 10: 25-37
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying,
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your strength,
and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from
Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing,
wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.
And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked,
and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.
And when he saw him, he had compassion.
So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine;
and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii,
gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him,
‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend,
when I come again, I will repay you.’
So which of these three do you think was neighbor
to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
We all have a responsibility to go on with God. We have a responsibility to change our nature into the likeness of Christ, and to let God work upon us in a way that will bring glory unto Him. It’s not for us to put on a facade or be like someone else; but for us to walk in what God has got for us.
We need to obey the law, but also have a heart unto the things of God.
A part of that is to do with being selfish. We can be selfish in our work, in our money, and in our relationships etc. The word selfish is defined by Google as an “excessive concern about yourself”. It’s about your own advantage and well-being without concern about other people and circumstances. Self-interest on the other hand, is your concern for your own happiness.
When it comes to our own heart, the way that we behave has an impact on the people that are around us. Whether it’s in our private life, our family home, in our church life, or in a bigger sense. We need to ask whether we’re being selfish, whether we consider the impact of what we do on other lives, and whether we act out of self-interest, bothered only for ourselves to the detriment of others.
In the verses above, Christ talks about the parable of the Good Samaritan. I encourage you to read this well-known passage, and consider it from the perspective of the heart of the individual and the law about doing the right thing. Some people can look good on the outside, but their hearts are far away from God.
When we talk about the selfish person and the person who is self-interested, do you think these things come into a church? Can you have all different kinds of self-interested motives there which affects a whole church? Does it catch and go around?
When Christ speaks this parable, He speaks of different sorts of people. We read of a priest, a Levite (who’s a Lawyer), a Samaritan, Jesus and a man. The one who had the least to gain could have been the Samaritan. The Old Testament, which the Levite would’ve been well aware of, focuses very much on completing the law and the practices of devotion. But in the New Testament, Jesus brings a new covenant and a new commandment where we look at the condition of the heart, the relationship of the heart between you and God. The old ways have to be completed, but in a new way, with submission when it comes to our own heart. Christ brings this all to the front in this passage.
Jesus contrasts this – the heart filled with devotion is contrasted with the external, hypocritical, pretentious ways of the other people, like the Pharisee.
There are three parts – the lawyer’s, the priest and the Samaritan. The Levite would have been an expert in the law. He would have known the Old Testament law that meant he should have looked after the injured man. He decides not only to ignore the injured man, but also to pass the injured man on the other side of the road. That’s quite incredible. He would’ve known the scripture Christ quoted – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer would’ve known all about all of what he should have done to do to comply with law. He chose to ignore the law and to pass by on the other side. Why would he have done that? All the while, the man is injured and left for dead. All we are told is where there should have been compassion, concern, scripture and help, the man passed it by.
The priest represented the religious people. Why didn’t wouldn’t he have done anything? It could have been that by picking him up and by touching his blood, the priest would have become ceremoniously unclean. Suddenly, this priest, stops his responsibility to the man at the side of the road because of different reasons, which could have included making himself unclean by the fact he had to touch the blood and get involved with something messy. Where was his compassion? Was he being selfish? He passed him by on other side of the road.
The Samaritans were more hated than Romans. They were the type of people to pour pigs blood in the temple and make it unclean. They caused chaos in the temple. They took on the pagan gods and rituals of foreign countries. The Jews hated them and they hated the Jews. The Jews would actually go the long way around Samaria rather than become unclean by travelling through there.
Yet with the Samaritan, with all these things in the background, you can see and feel the man’s heart. You can see and feel that he had compassion. He tended to the man’s wounds. He paid out of his own pocket. He gave time to take this poor man and put him in a place safety. After all that, he promised to return to that place to check up on him. That says a lot about the condition of that man’s heart.
How would we be in a circumstances where a person’s heart is the bit that’s important?
It’s not easy being the Samaritan – taking the Jew to a place of safety where he can be looked after. It can take time, money, energy and heartache. What else are we going to do but that? We are told to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
There are two aspects to Christian life – one is to fulfill the command “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and the matters of the heart “your neighbor as yourself.” We can see what Christ thinks of the heart, He tells us to “Go and do likewise.”
Can we live as selfish? Yes we can. But that isn’t what God wants us to be. We read:
With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;
With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You will show Yourself pure;
And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.
God will bring down the haughty. God won’t be mocked in our actions. God knows exactly where we are. It’s up to us to line ourselves up with the scriptures, and line ourselves up with the heart of God.
The Samaritan was the one who should have passed him by. The other two were the ones who should have stopped and dealt with the matter. But they didn’t. In the verses above, we read that God will be merciful to the Samaritan, as he was merciful. God will show Himself to us as we show ourselves to Him. If we are selfish with self-based attitudes, God will bring certain things into our way in order to change us. Perhaps consequences, harder than we need, because God won’t be mocked in the way we go about our business.
What will happen if we don’t do the things God wants us to do? Is there a consequence to us, our church and our family? Yes. We read that for the devious and haughty, God will bring it down. God wants to change our sinful heart into a different heart that lives and breathes according to the feelings and life of God.
He wants us to bring our lives as a living sacrifice before Him and show ourselves as blameless before Him, covered by the blood of Christ.
The priest would have looked great, knowing all the right words to say. The Levite lawyer would’ve confounded people with words and knowing how to navigate situations. But we read that God will bring down the haughty. There’s no hiding place from God when it comes to matters of being selfish and self-interested. You might deceive the people, but you won’t deceive God.
There’s a consequence for how we behave. We read:
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,
it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
If we die to ourselves – our selfish needs, our self-interest that propels us – and let something of God change us inside, different things will happen. Instead of that selfishness, it brings the fruit of God, the life of God, and the abundance of God. You’re alone no longer. You’re now in a fruitful part of living. All those selfish things you would’ve done and can do, you don’t. In its place will come the life of God, the blessing of God, the anointing of God, the covering of God etc.
Consider how selfish we are before God. Are we living selfless lives or are we living selfish lives?
God is showing us in the parable that it’s the matters of the heart. We complete the requirements of law under Christ, but we live by a different set of principles, rules and laws in the light of the Holy Spirit that changes us into the likeness of Christ. We must keep going forward in the things of God. This is an ongoing change.
Christ taught to seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added unto you. That means we have to be taken to the threshing floor and that part of us needs to be taken out. We’ve all got these things that go on in our minds.
The reality is: where is the devotional heart of a servant? Are we devoted to God in the way that we behave and speak?
Will you allow God to deal with your heart in terms of the things that belong to you that are selfish and self-interested before God?