Has anyone ever called you a Good Samaritan?
Most individuals would answer, of course! People tend to think of themselves as kind and respectful. But, do you know what a Good Samaritan is or the history of the term? You may be surprised to hear that the concept has been around for thousands of years.
Let’s dive in to learn about the history of a Good Samaritan and what it means to be one.
Defining a Good Samaritan
In reference to the Bible, a Samaritan was a person who lived in Samaria in biblical times. A modern Samaritan is someone who claims to be a descendant of these people. They practice an ancient version of Pentateuch as Scripture.
But, when discussing who a Good Samaritan is today, it does not refer to the people descendant of Samaria. Instead, it refers to someone who helps others in random acts of kindness.
The term “random acts of kindness” is quite well known today. It refers to the concept of doing something nice for someone without expecting anything in return.
In other words, it means helping someone who is in distress, trouble, or in need out of the goodness of your heart. Luke 10:33 comments that a Good Samaritan is a charitable or helpful person. It highlights someone’s compassion and good intention. So let’s look deeper into the story.
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Jesus speaks of the parable in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:30-37). The story is about a Jewish traveler stripped naked, beaten, and left for dead on the road. The man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was robbed and beaten.
A Jewish priest walks past him as the man is lying down, almost dead. The priest passes the wounded man on the opposite side of the road, avoiding him. Next, a Levite walks by the man. He also ignores him.
Finally, a Samaritan comes across the man. At this time, Jews and Samaritans were enemies. They completely despised each other.
However, the Samaritan pitied the man. He poured oil and wine all over his wounds, bandaged them, and put the man on his donkey. He brought the wounded man to an inn and took care of him.
The Samaritan was then referred to as a Good Samaritan because of his mercy for the man.
The parable responds to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” which the lawyer asks in Luke 10:25-29. This is referencing the second commandment, which states, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Who is Thy Neighbor?
Jesus asks the lawyer which of the three men was a neighbor to the wounded man. The Jewish priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan. The lawyer says it was the man who had mercy on him, the Samaritan.
In response, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” This command from Jesus tells the lawyer to show compassion and love even for those different from us.
Race nor religion should affect who we help. If someone is in need and we are in a position to help, we are to give. Helping beyond personal differences is what makes someone a true Good Samaritan.
Furthermore, the command led hospitals and medical practices to use “Good Samaritan” in their names.
Do Unto Others
It is here you can draw a parallel to the do unto others quote. It says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Also known as the Golden Rule or ethic of reciprocity.
Indeed, most people associate the Golden Rule with Christian ethics. However, it extends far beyond the history of Christianity and the bible. For example, the Golden Rule has played a significant role in philosophy and religions since at least Buddhist teachings from the 6th century BCD.
Tracing the History
The second of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism says egoism is rooted in ignorance. Therefore, ego is the cause of all suffering. On the other hand, kindness and compassion are pure aspects of human nature. Additionally, Udānavarga 5:18 states, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
Again, the proverb of reciprocity appears in “The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant” from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040-1650 BCE). The story reflects the Egyptian concept of Ma’at.
Ma’at encompasses truth, justice, order, law, morality, balance, and harmony. The goddess Ma’at personified these concepts and brought order to chaos.
In the story, a poor merchant, Khuan-Anup, leaves his family and travels to the market to sell his goods. On the journey, a wealthy landowner, Nemtynakht, robs him in an elaborate scheme.
Khuan-Anup will not stand for the robbery and seeks justice through the Egyptian law based on Ma’at. Even though Khuan-Anup is poor, he argues that to comply with Ma’at balance and harmony of the law is for everyone.
In the end, the poor peasant wins after appealing to the king. He proves that living according to Ma’at means being considerate of others even if they are different from you.
The story of Khuan-Anup is uniquely similar to the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
Further Teachings of the Golden Rule
Moreover, history seekers find the Golden Rule again in ancient Indian texts, including Sanskrit and Tamil traditions. It has also been documented in ancient Greek, Persian, and Roman texts.
Further reading shows the Golden Rule discussed in Confucianism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, and many other religious texts. You can also find examples of the Golden Rule throughout the Torah in Judaism and hadiths, spoken words from the Prophet Muhammad, in Islam.
So, while many people associate a Good Samaritan with the teachings of the Bible, you can trace the history of the Golden Rule back thousands of years through a culmination of teachings and practices.
Go Forth and Spread Kindness
Being kind, generous, and helpful are excellent ways to be a Good Samaritan. As long as you show genuine compassion and charity to those in need without expecting anything in return, you are following the Golden Rule.