Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, one of my new favorites called "Hidden Brain." On the show, they explore different psychological phenomenon and how they affect everyday people in everyday life. In this particular episode, they referenced something known as "The Good Samaritan Study."
As one might guess, the premise for the study came from this story from scripture. The study tested when and why people might be more likely to stop and help a stranger. They tested students versus seminary students, with the theory that seminary students, aka religious people more likely to be influenced by the story of the Good Samaritan, would be more likely to stop and help. They told students to leave one building and go to another, and deliberately placed an obviously in need person in their path. The twist was this - one set of people was told they absolutely needed to be on time to the second building, and the second set was given no such time constraint.
It turns out, what made people most likely to stop and help had nothing to do with their personal religiosity, and everything to do with whether or not they felt like they had time to stop and help. Those who felt rushed did not stop, and those who had no timeline to follow did stop.
I think this study helps illustrate an important aspect of what Jesus was teaching us with this parable - part of being a Good Samaritan is not just being willing to stop and help, but noticing when such help is needed. Too often in our world today we get caught up in the trap of "busyness" - we are too busy to do this or that, we spend so much time filling our schedule with things that are not important that we lose track of our priorities.
Take some time this week to notice the world around you, to look for opportunities where you might be a good neighbor, and to help, whether you feel like you have the time or not. You'll be surprised at just how much time you do have to do good in this world.
God who gives us every minute of our lives, you know just how much time we do and don't have. Help us to turn our attention to the more important things in this world, and to open our eyes to our neighbors in need. Amen.