You may recall the old joke about the ventriloquist who was performing with his dummy on his lap. He was telling hillbilly jokes when Bubba jumped to his feet, one gallous of his old faded bibbed overalls unfastened and flapping.
“What gives you the right to stereotype hillbillies that way,” he demanded. “What does the place I choose to live have to do with my worth as a human being?”
Flustered, the ventriloquist tried to stammer out an apology.
“You keep out of this,” Bubba yelled. “I’m talking to that little jerk on your knee.”
For whatever reason, some people have always tended to look down on others because of where they live. People from the central Appalachians or the Mississippi Delta region are too often painted in an unfavorable light. In New Testament days, that was true for people who lived in Samaria. So, I always loved the fact that Jesus often made the Samarians the heroes of the stories he’d tell.
The Jewish leaders were especially prejudiced against Samaritan. They openly scorned them. So imagine their reaction when Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. You remember, a traveler had been beaten and robbed and left in the road half dead. A Jewish priest traveling that road walked right on past the injured man, offering no assistance whatsoever. A Jewish worship leader who came along did the same thing. But then came a Samaritan who leapt into action when he saw the man lying there helpless. He tended to the man’s injuries, then he took the man to an inn so that he could recover. (They didn’t have hospitals at that time.) Remember, the attackers took all the man’s clothing and any money that he would have had. So the Samaritan paid for the man’s room and board and medicines.
The Jewish religious leaders, who thought of themselves as holy and righteous, had to be offended by that story. Sometimes, it’s when we’re offended, that we learn to be better people.
The story Jesus told about the Good Samaritan came in response to a question from a lawyer who asked about God’s command to love thy neighbor. The Good Samaritan served as the perfect example of how we are to love our neighbors, by helping them when they have a need.
I think even Bubba, who argued with the ventriloquist’s dummy, could figure that one out.
Roger Alford is pastor of South Fork Baptist Church. Reach him at 502-514-6857 or by writing to P.O. Box 673, Owenton, Ky. 40359.