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Daily Devotional • January 31

James Cornwell
The Good Samaritan
A Reading from Galatians 4:12-20

12 Brothers and sisters, I beg you: become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong. 13 You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; 14 though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What has become of the goodwill you felt? For I testify that, had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them. 18 It is good to be made much of for a good purpose at all times and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

There is probably no story in the Bible more famous than the Good Samaritan. It is the quintessential tale of someone selflessly providing and showing compassion to the suffering. Many in the Western Church, reading the parable in this manner, see themselves in the place of the Samaritan. From the heights of their wealth and prosperity, they descend with sympathy and compassion on the poor and the weak, fulfilling, in their minds, their calling as Christians in responding to the needs of their neighbors.

None of this is wrong, but it is incomplete. St. Paul, writing today to the Galatians, praises his audience for their care and mercy toward him when he was ill. They were Good Samaritans to him. But now, he says, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” If we return to the famous parable, it is as though the man left beaten by the side of the road reunited with the Good Samaritan and started telling him that he might want to work on his drinking problem. 

This poses the question: When we give liberally to those who are in a state of physical suffering, intellectual disability, or social exclusion, do we see them as equals, or are we actually giving our gifts as a means of expressing our own wealth and cultural superiority? Many of us are willing to give generously of our time and treasure, but are unwilling to make ourselves truly vulnerable to those whom we claim to love, perhaps even to put ourselves under their judgment.

Caring for the poor, providing relief to the suffering, educating the disadvantaged, visiting the prisoner — these are all Christian duties. But these gifts are not merely supposed to change the lives of their recipients for the better, they are to remind us of our own poverty, vulnerability, intellectual limitations, and imprisonment to vice and sin. It is in this state of equality that we can genuinely turn toward Christ in readiness to receive the truth of his gospel.

James Cornwell lives and works in Wheaton, Illinois, with his wife Sarah and their seven children.

Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
The Diocese of São Paulo – Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
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