Wisdom from a parable


Each Sunday children gather in worship at First Christian Church for a story based on biblical wisdom. They are delightful, attentive and responsive. Their elders also learn valuable lessons, simply presented. Then the children scamper around the sanctuary gathering foodstuffs for the FISH food pantry.

The parable of the Good Samaritan about three kinds of people can be simply told as a children’s lesson.

A thief knocked a traveler off the road to steal from him. Greed caused him to say, “What yours in mine, and I will take it.” Did Jesus approve of him? No!

A person walked by on the other side of the road ignoring the traveler. Selfishness caused him to say, “What I have is mine, and I will keep it!” Did Jesus approve of him? No!

A Samaritan stopped and helped the man. Generosity caused him to say, “What I have is ours, and I will share it.” His actions said louder than words, “What troubles and hurts you have, we will share.” Jesus praised the generosity of the Samaritan.

That’s why we call it the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).

A lesson for adults would be a bit more nuanced. The force of the parable is in part because the Samaritan was himself despised and rejected. Moreover, the story begins with the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer to the question is simply stated: “The one who had mercy on him.” Our children might learn these deeper points later. Older youth and adults might well learn these lessons and apply them to their lives.

Lessons from the parable are down to earth at first hearing, but it takes a lifetime to learn and apply them well. A teacher eventually learns that sometimes less is better. To explain a serious lesson clearly and concisely is better than to belabor a trivial one, beating a dead horse.

This lesson simply stated: A healthy neighborhood or family depends more on your generous treatment of people around you than how close or distant they are from you physically, socially, religiously, or ideologically. That’s a hard teaching! A timely one now between Thanksgiving and Christmas!


Raymond B. Williams, Crawfordsville, LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities emeritus, contributed this guest column.