A great principle of Christ—that it is wrong to omit doing what we ought to do—is taught in the famous story of the good Samaritan. "A certain man went down ... to Jericho, and fell among thieves." (Luke 10:30.) His nationality, his race, his religion are not noted. All that Christ says is that he was a man. He represents humanity. On that dangerous, and still dangerous, journey, through the bleak and barren gorge, down to Jericho, this man fell among thieves who assaulted him and robbed him and left him for dead. Presently there came down a priest who saw the man lying on the ground, but passed by on the other side.
No doubt he had plenty of good excuses to make to himself. "The man is either dead or so far gone that nothing I can do can help him. Too bad, but these things happen in life." Or, he may have said to himself, "This has been a recent attack and the robbers are still in the neighborhood. Perhaps lurking behind yonder rock. It will not be safe for me to stop and try to do anything for this unfortunate man. Moreover, if he is dead, it will be pollution for me to touch him; and my priestly duties would be interfered with." So he passed on.
Then came the Levite, another public exponent of religion, another man bound by his office. But he, too, passed by on the other side. No doubt he made the same excuses to himself that the priest did, and with this in addition. He probably said to himself, assuming that the priest and the Levite were not separated by a great distance, "If the priest did not stop, then I am sure that there is no necessity for me to stop."
Then came the Samaritan. For Christ to choose a Samaritan as the hero of his story would be like a speaker in Germany today before a Nazi holding up a Jew as the hero for his story, or address. And yet that is what Christ did. He did not mean to teach that all priests and Levites were heartless men, or that all Samaritans were good men, for just recently he had been turned out of a Samaritan village. But the compassion and humanity that he wishes to praise, he finds in this unlikely source.
The Samaritan could have made to himself the same excuses that the priest and the Levite made to themselves. Moreover, if the victim of the robber was a Jew, it was quite in keeping with custom that a Samaritan should feel no obligation to do anything for him. Yet this man stopped at once, ministered to the bleeding, wounded victim of the robbers, put him on his beast, brought him to the inn, and made himself responsible for his expenses there as long as was necessary for his recovery.