There is more to the story of the Good Samaritan than you thought. I had a revelation recently that forever changed this parable for me. No, the clouds didn’t part and there was no loud booming voice. But one part of this story jumped out at me and altered my view of money and charity forever. I was given the untold story of the Good Samaritan…
You probably know the story. If you don’t, it will take you less than one minute to read it here.
It ends with this:
He put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ (emphasis mine)
Two silver coins was the equivalent of two days’ wages for an average laborer. And he had more where that came from!
When I understood those two facts, my eyes were opened to so much more.
Yishayahu (or Yish as most people called him) was born into a loving but poor family in the slums of Shechem, right in the center of Samaria. His mother and father raised him and his four siblings to work hard, save money, and to be generous. Despite having little themselves, they always had enough money left over after taking care of their basic needs at the end of each month to help others in worse situations. They always paid their tithe first, then took care of their needs, then saved a little, and almost always managed to be able to give a little each month.
Yish and his two brothers, like most in his village, began working at an early age. First, they began helping their father Manoach in his well-digging business. The labor was hard, but with their help, Manoach was able to complete one extra well per month, providing additional income for the family and others.
Manoach always paid each of his sons one denarius, the average day’s wage at the time, each month. Yish hardly knew what to do with that silver coin the first time. Though it was but one day’s wages and he only received one per month, he felt like he could buy the world.
But Yish knew better. Each month, he gave three gold quinarii (or just a little more than 10% of the denarius) to his local synagogue. He saved ten gold quinarii, gave away a few, and was left with about ten gold quinarii each month to spend and enjoy. That was the pattern each month.
That same pattern continued until Yish was in his early twenties. He continued to work for his father, never making more than two denarii per month, when at the age of 23, he found the love of his life, married her, and set out on his own.
Yish started a well-digging business himself near Ceasarea on the coast. He struggled at first to build business, but armed with his expertise in the trade and the business acumen he had acquired through years of meeting with other businessmen in his hometown, his business began to flourish, at least by his upbringing’s standards.
But he never profited more than 6 copper quadrantes in a year, which averaged out to little more than a denarius per day. As always, the first ten percent went to the synagogue and he and his family paid their bills. They continued to give and to save and even invest in other businesses.
Despite his humble upbringing and lower than average income, Yish found himself in a very comfortable financial position. Hard work and financial discipline had paid off. No, they hadn’t enjoyed many trips across Judea as a family or attended many plays in the local ampitheatre, but they enjoyed their life and lived without the stress of financial worry.
As he advanced in age, now a grandfather of two beautiful girls, he made a business trip to Jerusalem. It was a three day journey of more than 60 miles and it was exhausting for a man of his age.
As he wrapped up his business in Jerusalem, he received an urgent message from a carrier from Jericho. His older sister was ill and was likely not to make it past the next night. He immediately left for Jericho, not knowing that this particular journey would lead him to being known the world over.
It was on that journey to Jericho that he encountered a man on the side of the road, beaten and bloody. He must have been there for hours.
He quickly checked the man’s pulse. He was still alive! He soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them and then picked the man up, saddled him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. It was late now and he was only a few miles from his sister’s house. So he stayed that night with the man and the next morning gave enough money to the innkeeper to house the man for a few days. He would be passing by again on his way back to Jerusalem, so he told the innkeeper that if that was not enough, he would pay him more on the way back.
Though Yish had never made more than a quarter of the Judean population in a year, he was in a position to help that man when the need arised. Not everyone was able to travel with extra olive oil and wine or bandages. And even fewer were able to afford a week’s stay at an inn, let alone for longer. But Yish was. His following of basic and timeless financial principles meant that his story would be told by the Great Teacher and shared for more than 2000 years and beyond.
That’s the Untold Story of the Good Samaritan.
It’s a story that many today don’t want to hear. Of a man who barely made more than the minimum wage of his time prospering through financial discipline and sacrifice. Of a man who never received a handout or loan. Of a father who taught his son that no matter your situation, you give first back to God, a God who wants you to be blessed so that you can be a blessing to others. Of a man who had material wealth, yet he was not evil, but was able to help his fellow man in need, something he could not have done without money.
How can you inspire someone today to think beyond their limits so they can change the world?