Dec. 26, 2005 - Jan. 1, 2006



The good but 'compassion fatigued' Samaritan

The columnists and commentators are already calling 2005 the "Year of Disasters," beginning with the cleanup from one of the worst Tsunamis on record and continuing on with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and then the earthquake around Pakistan.

And relief agencies from big international charities to local food banks are talking about "compassion fatigue" and "donor fatigue" as their usual benefactors and supporters say they are overwhelmed and overextended in the charity department. It's an understandable phenomenon -- those who have already dug deep into their pockets are reluctant to give more, perhaps because they have legitimate pressing financial needs of their own.   

Unfortunately, the need doesn't go away. Charities of all sizes are reporting downturns in year-end giving because many regular donators have already responded to the major disasters earlier in the year. "It's really going to be down to the wire for us," Ruth Igoe of the Greater Chicago Food Depository told the Chicago Tribune. "It's truly a daily disaster of hunger here in Chicago." 

Compassion fatigue and donor fatigue are certainly understandable, but they are not excusable for people of faith. Just read Luke 10:25-37, Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan was good because he who cared for a stranger he found robbed and beaten by the side of the road. Unlike two others who passed the victim by, the Samaritan helped both physically and financially.

But read the context of the parable carefully. Jesus tells the parable to answer two successive questions. The first one comes in verse 25, when an expert of the Jewish law asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The answer, in verse 27, is that eternal life comes from loving God with all of your being and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The expert then asks, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus answers the question with the parable of the Good Samaritan, and then asks a question of his own in verse 37: "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" Of course, the expert in the law answers that the neighbor was the Samaritan who had compassion.

Jesus' response to the expert in the law is the answer for all Christians (me included) who are tempted to use compassion fatigue and donor fatigue as excuses for not doing all we are able to assist our churches in helping both the victims of natural disasters and the victims of economic disasters in our cities and countryside. Told that the true neighbor of the victimized man was the Samaritan who had mercy, Jesus says, "Go and do likewise."

So when you put the question in verse 25 and the answer in verse 37 together, you get: "On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?'  ... Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.' "

-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
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New This Week:

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Want to make good New Year's resolutions and keep them? The author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggests three "universal resolutions" that will help. Though aimed at a secular audience, Covey's article fits well into a faith framework. weighs "If people are ‘looking out for number one’ and ‘what's in it for me,’ they will have no sense of stewardship no sense of being an agent for worthy principles, purposes and causes. They become a law unto themselves, a principal." Good reading from This week's Treasure Chest offering.

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What a year it was for people of faith. Check out this listing of the Top 10 Stories according to one of the nation's top Christian magazines. Click here for "Top 10 Stories," from Christianity Today.