“Good Samaritan” is a common term used to describe volunteers who go above and beyond to help after a disaster. There’s even a Good Samaritan law in every state to help protect uncompensated volunteers spontaneously providing aid in emergency situations.
The parable of the Good Samaritan, from which this term gets its name, is one of the most told and taught parables in the Bible. Found in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37), it offers an example of how to love God, embrace strangers as neighbors, and help others in need.
The past few weeks have brought disaster preparedness and care back into particular focus for churches in Florida and Texas, and it’s been brought onto the radar for churches everywhere. Whether their church is within the zone of impact or outside of it, leaders are wondering how to respond. A closer look at the Good Samaritan parable can provide inspiration and guidance for Christians seeking to help in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
Know your motivation
Before volunteering, stop and ask yourself why you want to help. The telling of the Good Samaritan parable was sparked by an interaction Jesus had with an expert of the law. This expert wanted to know how to earn eternal life. Jesus redirected the conversation, shifting his thinking from “What’s in it for me?” to “How can I love God and others well?” Help because of your faith, not to prove your faith.
Disaster relief is not about you. Volunteer to meet the needs of survivors, not to satisfy your own extrinsic needs (e.g., to be seen as a do-gooder). Make sure you are helping for the right reasons. Good reasons for wanting to help should be inwardly motivated: you want to help others for the sake of helping others. You want to help because you believe it’s the right thing to do.
You are more likely to run into or cause trouble if you get involved in disaster response for the wrong reasons. Make sure your desire to help is not being driven by external motivations, like the possibility of personal gain or benefit. Examples might include wanting to help to be “in the action,” to see what is going on, or because you want to be known for doing “good.” Well-meaning but poorly thought out help is the kind of help that no one needs. Jesus used Socratic questioning to unveil the expert’s motivation; we recommend doing the same to evaluate your motives before volunteering.
Know your neighbor
Reach beyond your comfort zone; focus especially on helping underserved and vulnerable neighbors affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Don’t cross to the other side of the road, like the priest or Levite, if you encounter someone in need whom you perceive to be different than yourself. Disasters impact those with fewer social or economic resources more significantly. Because they have fewer resources at hand, it also makes recovery typically longer and more difficult.