Going the Extra Mile

Today’s Gospel from St. Luke tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is a tale with which we are all familiar. A man falls vicim to theives, who leave him stripped, beaten and half-dead. As he is lying on the road, a priest passes by, and continues on his way without helping the man. A Levite comes by and does the same. Finally, a Samaritan traveler comes upon the man and is filled with compassion and helps him.

Jesus tells the story as a way to answer the question of a “scholar of the law”, who, upon hearing Jesus’ instruction that we must love our neighbor as ourselves, asks the question “who is my neighbor.” Jesus tells the story and then asks who was neighbor to the victim of the robbers, to which the answer is the Samaritan.

But there is something else in the parable it is important not to overlook. Here is Jesus’ description of the actions of the Samaritan:

He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, “Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.”

It is not just that the Samaritan didn’t walk away the way the priest and the Levite did.

He could have just bandaged the man’s wounds with the minimal effort necessary to make sure the man wouldn’t bleed to death. But he poured oil and wine over his wounds.

He could have bandaged the victim and left him there. But he carried him to an inn.

He could have dropped the victim at the door, leaving the man to hope for the generosity of the innkeeper. But he stayed and cared for him – delaying his journey by a day.

He could have given two coins to the innkeeper for his trouble and went on his way. But he promises the innkeeper he will come back and repay him whatever extra the innkeeper pays. And no upper limit!

This is no stingy offer of help. No doing the minimal amount required to “get credit” for doing good. This is a model of unbounded compassion.

And it invites us to examine our own behavior. Do we do just the bare minimum? Of do we go the extra mile as did the Samaritan?