“If you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey that has strayed away, take it back to its owner. If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.Exodus 23:4-5
“If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner. If its owner does not live nearby or you don’t know who the owner is, take it to your place and keep it until the owner comes looking for it. Then you must return it. Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility. “If you see that your neighbor’s donkey or ox has collapsed on the road, do not look the other way. Go and help your neighbor get it back on its feet!Deuteronomy 22:1-4
Most people will typically be available to help friends and loved ones in their time of need. However, one of the easiest things to do when a need from an anonymous individual becomes apparent to us is to pass by, turn the other way, or to simply ignore it. We can justify this by any number of ways saying we are not qualified to help, or not capable, or more commonly, on a schedule with no time for distractions.
But the torah or instruction of God makes no such distinctions. God removes anyone’s justifications with a couple of choice phrases. In the Exodus passage regarding one’s enemies, God says the Israelites should not refrain from or leave undone the thing that needs to be done. In the Deuteronomy passage regarding a brother, God says that one should not hide or conceal oneself from their need.
Regardless if one is an enemy or just an anonymous person in need, the honest response that God expects of his people is that those individuals would not be ignored.
Yeshua confirms this instruction by illustrating an ideal response with the story of the Good Samaritan. The righteous Israelites passed by the man who had been assaulted by robbers, but the Samaritan, considered an “enemy” by the Jews of the day, was the hero of the story and did what God expects of all of us. Yeshua made it personal for his audience in his day, certainly highlighting how any person, even an enemy, is valued significantly more highly than a donkey.
Admittedly, this type of proactive assistance was much more necessary in the day and age when emergency services were not available, as it was up to the individuals in a community to watch out for one another’s needs and not to rely on local agencies to address those types of situations. Even so, the local agencies can only help so much because the needs vary so greatly among regional populations.
Since it is God who makes this type of involvement personal and required, we should be honest and not neglect our response to the individual needs that become apparent to us. Many times, in an effort at charitability, we instead choose to focus on the anonymous movements to “save the world” in one fashion or another. Those endeavors may also be helpful in different ways, but they do not relieve us of our obligations to help proactively in personal ways with the immediate needs of those around us, friend and foe alike.
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”Luke 10:36-37
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.