I have often thought that the Good Samaritan was the ultimate example of loving your neighbor, but according to Martin Luther King Jr. this kind of love is only the first step.
"We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” – From The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., Chapter 31: Beyond Vietnam
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which was notoriously dangerous. It descended nearly 3,300 feet in 17 miles, running through narrow passes at points. The terrain offered easy hiding for the bandits who terrorized travelers. The conditions allowed for robbery to take place.
Micah 6:8 says “He has told you, O Man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
When we reach out to the poor in kindness and humility, like the Good Samaritan, we are doing good, but it's only two out of three. We are also called to do justice.
What's the difference? Imagine you saw someone drowning in a river, it would be an act of kindness to rescue that person. Now imagine if you continued standing at that same part of the river and saw multiple people drowning as they headed downstream. Eventually you need to head upstream and stop the evil person throwing these poor people into the river! That's justice.
Justice can be more difficult, because like the evil guy upstream, you don't see injustice as easily. You have to investigate. Sometimes you have to look really hard for it. And when you find it you will need courage to go after it and bring justice to the situation.
It's especially hard when you determine that the conditions that allowed for you to stand comfortably on the river's edge were the same conditions that allowed for others to be thrown in.
But God has called all of us to “do justice.”
The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons, in other words he doesn’t love someone more than another. He desires that none should perish and all should have eternal life with him.
But there is a lot of evidence in the Bible that would suggest that if God had to take sides, he would be on the side of the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised.
The Bible doesn’t say that God loves the poor more than the rich… but it does regularly assert that God lifts up the poor and the disadvantaged. And it frequently teaches that God casts down the wealthy and the powerful in two specific situations:
1) When the become wealthy by oppressing the poor
2) When they fail to share with the needy
Equal justice for the poor is a constant concern of Scripture. Widows, orphans, and strangers receive frequent attention and Jesus was explicit when he said what we do to the “least” we are actually doing to him.
If you want to know how to please God, don’t complicate things by trying to figure out where he exactly he wants you to go, go where he already is working and join in.
Lord, you've shown me what is good, now help my life to walk with you in humility (go where you go, see what you see), to love kindness (show compassion), and to do justice.