“A bad Samaritan is one who sees the needs of others and, whether because of laziness, greed, prejudice, pride or some other failing, refuses to help.” Istockphoto
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We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. In this beloved parable (Lk 10:29-37) Christ teaches us the importance and virtue of attending to the needs of others, especially when doing so costs us some form of sacrifice. The Lord’s message is clear: We should each strive to emulate the good Samaritan, helping others with selfless charity, whenever opportunities to do so arise. But have you ever considered the other side of the coin, and what it means to be a bad Samaritan?
A bad Samaritan is one who sees the needs of others and, whether because of laziness, greed, prejudice, pride or some other failing, refuses to help. A bad Samaritan recognizes that he can and should act to help someone out of a predicament but he stifles the voice of his conscience, that’s telling him to do something. A bad Samaritan is the embodiment of one who, by his refusal to act on behalf of another, commits sins of omission. In the Confiteor prayer at Mass, we tell publicly proclaim:
“I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do. . . .”
To help us avoid those sins of omission, let’s examine some scriptural passages that shed light on the dangers of being a bad Samaritan.
Perhaps the earliest biblical example of hard-heartedness toward others is found in Genesis 4:9, with Cain’s smart-aleck retort to God’s question: “Then the Lord asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He answered, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’”
Matthew 25:31-46 -- “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Exodus 22:21-24 -- “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”
Deuteronomy 15:7-9 -- “If one of your kinsmen in any community is in need in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand to him in his need. Instead, you shall open your hand to him and freely lend him enough to meet his need. Be on your guard lest, entertaining the mean [i.e. selfish] thought that the seventh year, the year of relaxation, is near, you grudge help to your needy kinsman and give him nothing; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will be held guilty.”
Proverbs 14:31 -- “He who oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him.”
James 2:14-17, 20 -- “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. . . . Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?”
1 John 3:14-17 -- “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?”
Patrick Madrid is an author, public speaker, and the publisher of Envoy Magazine. Visit his web site at www.surprisedbytruth.com
Additional passages: Leviticus 25:35; Job 34:19; Proverbs 14:21, 29:7; Amos 4:1, 8:5-6; Psalm 9:18, 68:10, 102:17, 146:7; Matthew 6:1, 7:21, 19:21; Luke 21:4; Acts 4:34-37; 2 Cor. 9:7; Galatians 2:10; Hebrews 10:24; Rev. 3:16; James 5:4
Related sections in the Catechism:
CCC 678, 1853, 1969-1970, 2094, 2445