Most have heard of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan who provided aid to a man who had been mugged by robbers and left for dead by the side of a road (Luke 10:25-37).
And while he provided both medicinal and financial aid to the fallen man, studies have shown that people who are kind or help others may also be helping themselves.
This was the conclusion of a Canadian study that revealed helping others may lead to better health for the person doing the helping. The study involved several students who were asked to tutor elementary students for two months. In the study the students were broken up into two groups, one group actually tutored the students and the second group were put on a waiting list and never tutored any of the elementary students.
Then four months after the tutoring assignment has run its course, the researchers ran blood tests to find out if there was any noticeable differences between the two groups. They discovered that students who had actually done tutoring had several positive outcomes compared to those who hadn’t done any tutoring.
The tutoring group not only had lower levels of cholesterol, but lower levels of interleukin 6, that makes a person more susceptible to both viruses and cardiovascular problems.
And this brings us back to Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. It started when a Jewish lawyer approached Christ, in an effort to test him, asking what the greatest commandment was. Jesus answered “You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”
The lawyer then asked “who is my neighbour?” and Jesus replied with the Good Samaritan story. It is important to know a couple of background elements to this, because there was a great deal of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans.
The Samaritans formed after the Babylonians had hauled the Jews into captivity and those that remained behind had married gentiles starting what would become known as the Samaritans. Because of their Jewish roots, they developed a quasi-Jewish religion that eventually included a temple on Mt. Gerizim, located on the West Bank in modern Israel.
We find a first mention of them in the book of Nehemiah, when they tried to hinder the construction of the walls in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:1-6), after Nehemiah had been allowed to return from captivity to rebuild the city’s walls.
The anger between the two groups continued on from this point and according to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, the Jews actually destroyed the Samaritan temple located on Mount Gerizim around 128/29 BC.
Then in the first century, a few years before Jesus told the story, the Samaritans had desecrated the Jewish Temple by depositing human bones in it. This contact with the dead would have made the Temple ceremonially unclean, and it was further aggravated by the fact, the Samaritans did it during one of the most important festivals on the Jewish calendar, Passover.
And Jesus may have been alluding to this grievance when the Lord said that the first two people to encounter the man who had been accosted by the robbers were a Jewish Priest and a Levite.
The two not only refused to check if the man was alive or dead, but even gave him a wide berth. Many suspect that the two, particularly the priest, were concerned of becoming contaminated because of contact with a dead person. But the Good Samaritan not only bound the man’s wounds, but took the man to a nearby tavern and paid for his stay until he had recovered.
After telling the story, Jesus asked the lawyer who was the beaten man’s neighbour? The lawyer unable to utter the name Samaritan answered that it was the man who showed mercy.
There is also a bit of irony in this because Jesus said that part of the greatest commandment includes loving our neighbour as ourselves. In other words we are to treat others like we want to be treated. If the studies are right, while providing medical assistance to the beaten man, the Good Samaritan was also benefiting his health as well.
And on a final note, our neighbour is not just fellow believers but even those we would consider enemies.
READ: Why being kind to others is good for your health AND Effect of Volunteering on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial