Helping hand

5 Generosity Lessons from the Good Samaritan

In Luke 10:25-37, an expert in the law presented a question to Jesus.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25, NIV)”

Jesus responded by asking the man what the Law said about eternal life. The man answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27, NIV).

Jesus confirmed that this answer was correct, but the man was not finished. He asked Jesus who should be considered his neighbor. 

Jesus then told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, where a man was robbed, beaten, and left to die. Two men, a Jewish priest and a Levite, saw the attacked man but coldly walked on the other side of the road. They didn’t want anything to do with the beaten man. Then a Samaritan, a supposed enemy of the Jews, saw the man. Unlike the priest and Levite, the Samaritan took pity on the man lying in the road. He cared for his wounds, placed the man on his donkey, and brought him to an inn. The Samaritan instructed the innkeeper to care for the beaten man, and he would cover the incurred costs. 

Jesus asked the expert in the law who he thought acted as a neighbor to the beaten man, the two religious leaders or the Samaritan. 

The man who questioned Jesus knew the answer. It was the Samaritan.

There is much we can learn from this parable about biblical generosity. In fact, there are countless passages of scripture that don’t talk about money, but can still teach us a lot about generosity. Let’s look at five different lessons Jesus teaches us through the Parable of the Good Samaritan about living generously.

1. Biblical generosity is not picky.

The Jews and Samaritans hated each other, and not in a “I don’t like your sports team” kind of way. The hatred was deep. 

Jesus’s parable reveals that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is not just about those immediately around you or people you like. Your neighbors include all whom God has created in His image, regardless of gender, nationality, political affiliation, religious beliefs, or past decisions.

The character selection in this story was intentional. Biblical generosity doesn’t rule some people worthy of generosity and others as unworthy. Christians are to be generous to all people. Our neighborhood is big. When God places people in need on our path, we are to treat them as a neighbor, loving them as ourselves. Biblical generosity is not picky.

2. Biblical generosity can be inconvenient. 

We all get busy. We have errands to run, tasks to complete, people to see, and places to go. And we don’t like when our plans get derailed.

The Samaritan man was on his way to another place. He had other plans that day, and those plans did not include taking care of a beaten, bloody man. Yet, this Samaritan saw the man and stopped. Do not miss the importance of his stopping. The Samaritan’s stopping meant the day would not go according to plan. It may have meant he would postpone or be late for his next appointment. It may have meant a task would not be completed that day. And it likely meant he was going to be inconvenienced. 

But he stopped. He stopped because he loved the beaten man as he loved himself. And if the Samaritan were the one beaten, he certainly would want someone to stop for him. The Samaritan took pity on the man, not his derailed plans. Biblical generosity can be inconvenient.  

3. Biblical generosity can be messy.

Often our generosity is a clean process. We go to our church website, find the “Give” link, fill out the form, send our electronic gift, and close our laptop. Clean.

The Parable of the Samaritan showcases a generosity that is anything but clean. The Samaritan’s generosity involved bloody bandages, placing a beaten man on a personal mode of transportation, and an open-ended financial commitment. The Samaritan’s generosity was involved. It was hands-on. It was messy.

There is a time for cleaner versions of generosity, where a button is clicked. While clean, the generosity can still be sacrificial, cheerful, and eternally impactful. But God also desires us to be hands-on and engaged—personally helping the marginalized, homeless, suffering, and lost. It is a generosity that is anything but clean. Biblical generosity can be messy. 

4. Biblical generosity is not a financial deal. 

“If I do this, then I expect them to…” 

You’ve heard this phrase. Maybe you’ve said something similar. Or maybe you’ve thought it. On one end is assistance, and on the other end is an expectation—an action for the benefit of the giver, not the recipient. An expectation of reciprocity turns generosity into a financial deal.

The elements we find in the Parable of the Good Samaritan are important, but so are the elements we do not find. While we read about inconvenient, messy generosity in the parable, we don’t read about an expectation of reciprocity. The only directive we discover is the Samaritan telling the innkeeper to do whatever it takes to care for the beaten man. 

To be clear, setting requirements is not wrong in all situations. Sometimes, meeting standards can be beneficial for the recipient, like a church requiring a benevolence fund recipient to meet with a financial coach. But when we give, we should not expect reciprocity. We are giving a gift, not brokering an agreement. Biblical generosity is not a financial deal. 

5. Biblical generosity reflects God’s love.

The sacrificial, grace-filled generosity demonstrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan reminds us of God’s generosity. God, who owed us nothing, entered our mess and provided us salvation. We were broken and could do nothing on our own, so He did it all for us. He paid the full cost. 

When we love our neighbor as ourselves and follow the generosity depicted by the Samaritan, we reflect God’s generosity toward a broken and lost world. We don’t always get to pick and choose who we help. Sometimes, God just puts a need before us, and we respond. Is it inconvenient? Often. Is it messy? Occasionally. Should there be expectations of reciprocity? Never.

This is what we see in Jesus’s parable. This is biblical generosity.

 

Art Rainer
Art Rainer

Art Rainer is the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money. Art lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.

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