The Review and Herald



January 1, 1895

Our Duty to the Poor and Afflicted


“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Here is a plain, decided question, asked before a large company, among whom were those who were watching to catch any word from the lips of Christ that they might turn against him. Jesus understood just how to adapt himself to the situation, and he asked a question of the lawyer that placed upon him the responsibility of answering his own inquiry. “He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” RH January 1, 1895, par. 1

Christ gave this lesson to those who claimed to be expositors of the law of God. From his explanation it was evident that conformity to their rigorous ceremonies, the outward show of religion, would not make them fit subjects for the kingdom of heaven. The principles which must be wrought out in the life are supreme love to God and impartial love to men. The lawyer answered his own question by declaring that the law must be practiced. But did Christ say to him, “This preach, and thou shalt live”?—No; “This do, and thou shalt live.” The lawyer found himself a law-breaker, and was convicted under the searching lesson that Christ gave them; for while he understood the righteousness of the law, he failed to show the mercy that the law enjoined. While he understood the letter of the law, he had not been a doer of its precepts. Convicted of his sin, repentance was demanded; but instead of repenting, he sought to justify his course by asking Christ, “Who is my neighbor?” RH January 1, 1895, par. 2

The Lord presented the case of a poor man who had been wounded and left by robbers to die by the wayside. The priest and the Levite who had passed by on the other side were in that very company who listened to the words of Christ, and their actions were presented before them in their true colors. The priest and the Levite were passing along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and by chance they came upon this poor wounded man; but the Lord took occasion by this circumstance to test and prove them. The Lord saw the man had been assailed by the robbers, who, being possessed with Satanic attributes, had wounded and bruised and robbed their fellow-man, and had left him helpless and dying, caring not what became of him. They would have killed him, had they not feared that they would be discovered, so they hurried away with their spoil. Christ says that not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Heavenly Father's notice; but here was a man who had been greatly injured by his fellow-men, and would not God look upon his affliction? Had those who injured him, respected and obeyed the law of God, they would have loved their neighbor as themselves. They could not have treated him as they did. But acting out the impulses of their sinful, corrupt nature, as though there were no law to forbid their cruelty, they cared neither for God nor for their neighbor, and left the wounded man to die by the wayside. RH January 1, 1895, par. 3

The Lord brought a priest, to whom was committed the work of ministering in behalf of the people, over the road where the sick and suffering man lay in a dying condition. A faithful priest is to be pitiful, to be imbued with the Spirit of God, filled with mercy, compassion, and love toward all. If put to the test, he will reveal the true nature of his character, and make it manifest before the universe of heaven whether he is fit for the sacred office. The angels look upon the distress of God's family upon the earth, and they are prepared to co-operate with human agents in relieving oppression and suffering. They will co-operate with those who “break every yoke,” who “bring the poor that are cast out to thy house;” who, “when they see the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh.” RH January 1, 1895, par. 4

To leave the suffering neighbor unrelieved, is a breach of the law of God. God brought the priest along that way, in order that with his own eyes he might see a case that needed mercy and help; but the priest, though holding a holy office, whose work it was to bestow mercy and to do good, passed by on the other side. His character was exhibited in its true nature before the angels of God. For a pretense he could make long prayers, but he could not keep the principles of the law in loving God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. The Levite was of the same tribe as was the wounded, bruised sufferer. All Heaven watched as the Levite passed down the road, to see if his heart would be touched with human woe. As he beheld the man, he was convicted of what he ought to do; but as it was not an agreeable duty, he wished he had not come that way, so that he need not have seen the man who was wounded and bruised, naked and perishing, and in want of help from his fellow-men. He passed on his way, persuading himself that it was none of his business, and that he had no need to trouble himself over the case. Claiming to be an expositor of the law, to be a minister in sacred things, he yet passed by on the other side. RH January 1, 1895, par. 5

Enshrined in the pillar of cloud, the Lord Jesus had given special direction in regard to the performance of acts of mercy toward man and beast. While the law of God requires supreme love to God and impartial love to our neighbors, its far-reaching requirements also take in the dumb creatures that cannot express in words their wants or sufferings. “Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them; thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.” He who loves God will not only love his fellow-men, but will regard with tender compassion the creatures which God has made. When the Spirit of God is in man, it leads him to relieve rather than to create suffering. RH January 1, 1895, par. 6

After the Lord had laid bare the indifference and disregard of the priest and Levite toward their fellow-man, he introduced the good Samaritan. He journeyed along the way, and when he saw the sufferer, he had compassion on him; for he was a doer of the law. This had been an actual occurrence, and was known to be exactly as represented. Christ presented these cases, and inquired which one of the travelers had been a neighbor to him who fell among thieves. As a teacher of the law who had not practiced the principles of the law, the lawyer stood self-convicted while hearing of the exercise of mercy on the part of a Samaritan whom they despised. The Samaritans had been excommunicated from the church, and the Jews were educated to cast contempt upon them, and yet it was one of this hated people who had acted out the principles of the law. Christ laid open before them their cruel selfishness and hard-heartedness; for while teaching the precepts of the law of God, they were not obeying the invisible Leader and Instructor. But the Samaritan, who was one of a despised people, cared for his suffering brother, and did not pass by on the other side. He treated his neighbor as he would desire to be treated were he in a similar condition. RH January 1, 1895, par. 7

By this parable the duty of man to his fellowman is forever settled. We are to care for every case of suffering, and to look upon ourselves as God's agents to relieve the needy to the very uttermost of our ability. We are to be laborers together with God. There are some who manifest great affection for their relatives, for their friends and favorites, who yet fail to be kind and considerate to those who need tender sympathy, who need kindness and love. With earnest hearts, let us inquire, Who is my neighbor? Our neighbors are not merely our associates and special friends, they are not simply those who belong to our church, or who think as we do. Our neighbors are the whole human family. We are to do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. We are to give to the world an exhibition of what it means to carry out the law of God. We are to love God supremely, and our neighbors as ourselves. RH January 1, 1895, par. 8