I love the painting The Good Samaritan by Vincent van Gogh. He painted it in 1850 while he was a patient in an asylum. He was struggling, and he found solace and direction in his artistic meditations.
The painting is dense with meaning. The Samaritan is himself struggling, awkwardly pushing the ambushed and injured Jewish man onto his donkey. The Samaritan has given up his place of relative comfort on the donkey and has emptied his luggage, treating the man with oil, wine, dressings, and clothes. But the Samaritan man isn’t glorified in the painting. His face is in shadow, and his leg serves as a step-stool for the Jewish man.
The injured man doesn’t even appear to be particularly grateful to the Samaritan. His countenance is heavenward, which is more appropriate. The priest and the Levite, who should have stopped to help a fellow Jew, pass by on the road, ignoring the need and the struggle.
Sometimes those who serve in missions feel like the Samaritan in the painting. Struggling, awkward, stepped-on, unappreciated. We have given up our place, our treasure, our comfort, our time. And sometimes the people we are serving seem oblivious to what we left behind or even contemptuous of our effort.
Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan after a Jewish lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” In Jesus’s story, He doesn’t praise the one being served. Jesus exalts the server. After telling the parable, Jesus asked, “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor…?” The answer was “The one who showed compassion toward him.”
Let us be compassionate toward our neighbors, regardless of where they are, regardless of their acknowledgment, and regardless of the attention of others. The One who sees and remembers our compassion is He who taught us about compassion and showed the greatest compassion of all. He is never oblivious, never contemptuous of the things we do in His name. Awkward, struggling, yes. But never unrecognized or unappreciated by the Great Servant King. Serve on.
PRAY: Father, help me to be compassionate toward my neighbors. May I be sensitive to opportunities to be Your hands and feet for those hurting around me. Please use my talents for Your glory, and I will praise Your name in everything I do. Amen