The Word for today:
Of all the stories in the Bible, probably the most misapplied are the story of David v. Goliath and the parable of the Good Samaritan.
It’s not hard to see why. Man from the very start has attempted to put himself at center stage. (Most idolatry, when you boil it down, is nothing more than the worship of the “image” in the mirror.)
So, call it what you will–pride, or self-centeredness, or even idolatry–it all springs from the urge to vault over others and even over God in order to position ourselves in the spotlight.
Thus we’ll read David v. Goliath (1 Samuel 17) as a moral tale which shows us that we ought to become more like David so we can defeat our Goliaths. But that’s not what the story is about at all! Rather, the story ought to point to Jesus, God’s greater anointed King, who would come and defeat the greater Goliath for us!
We project ourselves into the role of David. But may I be the first to say that we are not David! (At best we’re represented by the soldiers cowering back in the camp while David defeats evil single-handedly.)
In the same way, the parable of the Good Samaritan has managed to become the Do-Gooders’ Creed. People want to see themselves not as the broken man in need of rescue, but as the Rescuer! They read the parable as a moral tale starring–you guessed it–themselves.
If that’s how you’ve been reading it, then may I be the first to inform you that you are not the Rescuer! You are not the Good Samaritan! I am not the Good Samaritan! In scripture, there is only one Rescuer–and we’re not Him.
Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead…
In the parable, a certain man is mankind–you and I.
This man goes from Jerusalem (the place where we approach God) to Jericho (Sin City.) That represents the descent of man–the fall of man. He is half dead–in trespasses and sins (see Ephesians 2:1).
The Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ, who healed the broken and paid for them–and will complete the deal upon his return:
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.”
(Samaritans were half-breeds in the eyes of the Jew. They were from Jews who had intermarried with people from the north following the Assyrian Captivity. I would have you note that Jesus’ mother was a Jew, but Jesus’ Father was not Jewish! Jesus was the definitive half-breed: Son of God, Son of Man.)
The most tragic misapplication of scripture isn’t to misapply its moral principles, but to miscast ourselves in its stories. The day we realize that we are not the King–that we are just powerless soldiers on the hill whom the great King represents–is the day we begin to see what the Bible is all about.
The day we realize that we aren’t the Samaritan Rescuer–but that we’re broken, helpless, and headed in the wrong direction–is the day we turn a corner in our understanding of God, self, and scripture.
When we give proper place to the Savior King, and place ourselves “in the ranks” of the representatively redeemed, our Bibles–dog-eared as they might be after years of constant use–become brand-new before our very eyes.