The Good Samaritan
​​Jesus’ listeners had been brought up to believe that the priest and the Levite (religious leaders) were automatically close to God. And those listeners would also have understood the behavior of those two in this parable: they were busy men. They had important work to do. Besides, the law said that they must not touch a dead body – and how did they know that the injured man wasn’t dead? Besides, the robbers might still be around. The priest and the Levite were simply more interested in their protection or their pocketbook than their principles. (We do the same thing all the time).

Rather than the religious characters in Jesus’ parable, the person closest to the heart of God is clearly the Samaritan -- someone from "the wrong side of the tracks". Most of Jesus’ listeners would have been prejudiced against Samaritans. Samaritans had their theology all wrong, they had their religious practices all wrong, and they represented a history of wrong behavior, too. But Jesus is clearly saying that God has much more room than we do for anyone in the world, and that God isn’t particularly interested in our prejudice.

The parable challenges us to be less like the (respected) religious leaders and more like the (despised) Samaritan. But we so often fall short: convincing ourselves that the things that are valuable to us must also be valuable to God (Jesus says: "What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.") while overlooking the things that are really valuable to God.
Luke 10:30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two days' wages and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The priest and the Levite limited their own neighborliness for their own protection. But Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what reward do you expect?” Extending ourselves beyond our comfort zone is... (of course) uncomfortable. But the injured man made the priest and the Levite uncomfortable as well. In fact, according to Jesus, unless our expressions of love are slightly awkward or difficult or uncomfortable, there may be no heavenly reward in them at all 1 .