We all want to be good disciples and live meaningful lives, and the young lawyer in this passage grasps the golden opportunity to check he’s on the right track, direct from the Lord in person. Jesus answers the man’s question with another, “What is written in the Law?”. The young man correctly recites the summary of the Law of Moses, but here’s the rub, we may be good at rattling off chapter and verse, but how about putting the theory into action? The true cost of discipleship comes in the next verse, “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.” As Elvis would say, “A little less conversation, a little more action!” Of course, God wants more for us than to just live. He wants us to have lives filled to the brim, full of meaning, love, joy, and peace. But there’s clearly some doubt in this young man’s mind as to how much this is actually going to cost him. Mark Twain once said, “it’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me, it’s the part of the Bible that I do understand, that’s the part that really gets to me.”
To justify his hesitancy, the young man asks Jesus to be more specific, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus, always happy to oblige, tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and in doing so – He ensures that we can never again plead ignorance to what it really means to be a disciple. The main thrust of the Good Samaritan is about choices. Should we stop to help, or should we pass by? As difficult as these choices might be, we certainly get the message from Jesus… the Samaritan made the right choice. He saw the wounded man and had compassion on him. But it takes more than compassion to follow his example, it takes courage and discipline. We all know that getting involved can be risky. Loving our neighbours requires both compassion and courage. Courage is the one virtue that makes all others possible. It takes compassion and courage to respond to the needs of others, but at the end of the day it’s what pleases our Lord of love.
I write this having just finished my Tax Return, checking that I pay what I owe and not a penny more. God’s spreadsheet doesn’t quite add up the same way. We’ll never balance that particular book! So, before counting the cost of discipleship, remember: God loves you and wants you to have life in abundance. He wants your neighbour to have that life too, and He’s waiting for you to be that Good Samaritan, whatever the cost.
Rev Geoff Eales, Associate Priest