Church Life · Good Samaritan · Political Theory · Socialism

Was the Good Samaritan a Socialist?

Your political identity does not have a bearing on whether or not you could belong to our church. More importantly your political theory is not what get’s you into or keeps you out of Heaven. We have said many times at Cornerstone that we are unified around the Gospel of Jesus Christ. While I personally enjoy studying politics as a hobby, a lot of it has to do with my personal beliefs. People who love God, believe in Jesus and trust Scripture can still have opposing political viewpoints. 

And while I may not be able to make an entire political theory from Scripture, I do believe that Scripture teaches certain things in regard to political theory. One of the current debates that roll on is whether Scripture teaches socialism or capitalism.

Now this blog post is a very narrow study of one person. I’m not looking at the subject altogether, and you may think of other passages that apply. These few paragraphs will address the Good Samaritan: was the Good Samaritan a socialist? I do not necessarily introduce this  because of my political stand, but because I continually hear this story distorted.

Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25–37. A man is beaten and robbed by thieves. Two people, seemingly religious, pass by this man afterward and do nothing to help him. The Good Samaritan comes by and helps him back to his feet. I’ve heard some of my socialist friends say that the Good Samaritan is teaching Socialistic political theory. So is it?

When  discussing  socialism and capitalism it is important to define our terms. In this argument we have different definitions which could lead to some confusion. It’s hard to communicate if we’re talking about different things. So for this article I’m going to define socialism as an economic theory where a community pools its resources and equally divides them among the community regardless of production or skill. Also, everyone who belongs to that community has no choice of whether he or she wants to participate, but is forced into that community, no matter how well or poorly the leaders care for the community. This is not a working definition for every type of socialist, but the one I am using here.

Another problem with the discussion is how much socialism do we have? I don’t believe we can say that any society is either 100% socialistic or 0% socialistic. There are many parts of our society in the middle of that scale. The topic is a sliding scale. Despite these downfalls, let’s return to the story of the Good Samaritan.

Is Jesus teaching in support of socialism? First, let’s understand that this is a parable, which means that the purpose of the parable itself is not to promote socialism, but to teach us to care for others and how our salvation should affect the way we treat others.

The Good Samaritan took action, we see in the passage that “he saw,” “he took,” “he went,” “he put,” and “he took.” Notice that the Good Samaritan was the one taking action.

Now some might disagree with this article because there are problems which need to be taken care of collectively, that could not be taken care of by one person. I would not disagree with you. That is not the question I am asking. The question I am asking:  “Does the story of the Good Samaritan promote socialism?” or “was the Good Samaritan a socialist?”

The five times the Good Samaritan takes action within this story using the pronoun “he” is not the only help the Good Samaritan provides. He was even more involved. It went from him first having to notice that there was a problem with somebody directly next to him, then taking immediate action to assist the injured man. He got his hands dirty. He also took this man to someone else for long term help, whether it was because he did not have the medical skills or the time to continue caring for this man. That being said, the Good Samaritan later checks up on this guy and covers the cost for this lodging and health care until the injuries heal.

There’s one glaring thing about this story which would not be just of commission but omission. It is that the Good Samaritan not only did these things, and did so voluntarily. Which is inversely to say he did not do them by force nor did he charge others with the task of doing it. In this case scenario he did not run to a governmental agency, church, or any other organization to help with the man and his expenses. The only time he asked for others to help was for this man’s long term care, and in that case, he covered the cost it.

Christians should take note of how the Good Samaritan helped this stranger. Too often individuals see another’s need and instead of directly helping, they run to their church community for help. There are legitimate times when a collective is needed for bigger needs. But many times problems can be handled by the individual who sees the need. The irony is that there are times when someone who sees the need can help and doesn’t, and then becomes frustrated when others are asked to help but do not.

So was the story of the Good Samaritan promoting socialism? No. Is it promoting charity, kindness, and a willingness to serve others? Absolutely yes! So the next time you see someone in need, think how can I specifically help with that need on my own? Too often we shirk the responsibility and want the collective help, even when we can provide assistance. This is often because helping can be a personal burden. But no one said helping people was supposed to be easy. As Christians we are called to be sacrificial just as Jesus was for us on the cross.