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The Man in the Ditch

When we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, we normally identify with the benevolent outsider who gives up his ride, two days wages, and writes a blank check to the innkeeper. Laws have been written, charities formed, and political speeches given around this famous parable of Jesus. 

Reading the parable this way challenge us to not “pass by on the other side,” and that obviously can’t be a bad thing! But when we consider Jesus’s first century audience: oppressed people living under Roman occupation, it’s more likely that they identified with the man in the ditch more than they did the Samaritan. Most of them probably did not have the financial means to help a stranger on the side of the road like the Samaritan did in the story.

When we read the parable from the perspective of the man in the ditch, new meanings and challenges come to light that we may not have noticed before.

Imagine that you’ve broken down on the side of the road. You’re sitting there wondering what you are going to do when you see your pastor, priest, or preacher coming down the road. After watching dozens of cars go by, you finally have some hope! But, against all odds, they get into the opposite lane and drive right by. 

Think how discouraged you would be! The person you look up to as a dedicated servant of God passes by on the other side. The person who preaches life, grace, and love leaves you stuck on the side of the road.

A few moments pass and it begins to rain. Of course, it does, right? But you see a familiar truck approaching. What luck! It’s your worship leader! Maybe the minister was busy and was on the way to the hospital or had a meeting to attend, but surely your worship leader will stop, right? Hey, maybe your preacher told them to come by!

But no. They pass by on the other side as well.

If your pastor and worship leader drive by, then what hope could you possible have?

But then you see one last car. It’s beat up, and you aren’t quite sure how it’s still on the road. They have a political bumper sticker that you would never dream of putting on your car. In fact, you made fun of that exact sticker with your friend just the other day.

But they pull over.

As they get out of their car you immediately notice that he doesn’t look like you at all. He has a different skin tone, hair style, and wears strange clothes. When he speaks, his accent seems strange. In other words, “He ain’t from ‘round here!”

“Well great,” you think to yourself, “First my car breaks down, the two most respected members of my church ditched me, it started to rain, and now I’m about to be robbed, assaulted, or worse.”

But he doesn’t immediately come directly to you. First, he reaches into his back seat and pulls out (“A weapon?”) a can of gas. He tells you to get back into the car to escape the rain and that he will fill it up for you. After he finishes, he hands you twenty dollars and says, “Here you go, my friend. I don’t want you getting caught in the rain again.”

When we read the parable this way, it challenges the prejudices and assumptions we might have. It also calls us to broaden our definition of who our neighbor is and realize that since God loves us, we should show love to everyone, regardless.

I wrote the article for the Sand Mountain reporter which can be found here:

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