Sermon: Now, wait just a second before you start throwing people under the bus!
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: July 14, 2019
This morning we are continuing in Luke chapter ten. Last week, we learned how we can set our watch’s alarm to 10:02 and it will remind us that we are each to pray for laborers to go out and bring in the Lord’s harvest. If you missed last week, note Luke 10:02 as you’re turning to our Story today. The thirty-five pair of disciples have returned from their trip and they were sharing all types of wonderful news of their adventures when Jesus tells them in verse 23, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” And this brings us to our Story in Luke 10:25 and following.
I’ll be honest, I was not really sure I wanted to use this text because it’s one of those texts that people have heard before over and over again and I dared wonder what we could possibly add to it that’s not already been said. It’s at this point, a wise older member of the church who heard my dilemma told me, “It’s a Story we need to hear again and again. Preach it!” So, with his words ringing in my ears, this morning I’m framing my words around the title, “Now wait for just a second before you start throwing people under the bus!” Listen to the Word of the Lord!
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Scholar James Wallace writes, “When a parable becomes a cliché, can it still function in the life of the community?” He goes on to say, “A “Good Samaritan” is commonly recognized as anyone who comes to the aid of another. But is this really what Jesus was getting at? Was he only offering a variation on “Be helpful when you come across people in trouble”? Was he just giving us a parable to make us feel guilty when we ignore a homeless person?”
I suggest the answer is a resounding, “no.” This parable is not about trying to make us feel guilty, although some of us might get some positive mileage out of that feeling for the sake of the Kingdom of God; actually, this parable functions as a mirror for us to hold up and honestly look at and assess to what our spiritual GPS is coordinated and what it’s tuned into itself; it is a measure of the tone and tenor of one’s faith.
You see, at first blush, we hear this Story and our propensity is to automatically relate with the Samaritan and think smugly to ourselves that unlike those religious-types, that priest and that Levite, we would stop and help someone on the side of the road. They’re too wrapped up in their religious piety to help! We look at our text today and say, “So, surely I wouldn’t do what that clergy did!” So, we metaphorically grab the priest and the Levite by the scruff of their robes’ collar and yell, “Under the bus for you!” as we toss them into the Trolley’s path on Las Olas Boulevard. Surely we would act differently if we were placed in a similar situation! But would we?
Years ago, social psychologists from Princeton University conducted an experiment on the relationship between time pressure and a person’s expression of helpful behavior. Psychologists John Darley and Dan Baston looked at the Story of the Good Samaritan and wondered, “What if the priest and Levite were wrapped up in life’s busyness and deep important thoughts and were in a hurry? Maybe the Samaritan was not in such a hurry like the other two. Then again, maybe like we often read in this text, they wondered if our Story is about how the values and virtues the religious leaders embraced were not something they really followed. Darley and Baston had three hypotheses:
- Even people disposed to thinking religious and helping thoughts would be no more likely than any others to help render assistance to someone in need.
- People in a hurry are less likely to offer aid than others.
- People who exercise their religion for what it will gain them (like the priest and Levite) will be less likely to help others than those who value religion for its own value or are looking for meaning in life (like the Samaritan).
In order to test their theory, they went to Princeton Theological Seminary and got a group of divinity students together. They told one-half of the students that they needed to prepare a talk about vocational fields they wanted to get into following their graduation. The other half of the students were to give a talk on the Good Samaritan. They were placed in a room on campus in which they were to prepare their talk. When the time came, they would be asked to go to another building on campus to a panel waiting to hear them. As they were individually dispatched to go give their talk, they were told one of three things: You’re late so you better hurry and get over there because they’re waiting on you; if you’re done, you can head on over as they are ready for you now; or, they were told, “It’ll be a few more minutes before they’re ready but you can go on over if you like. You may have to wait for a little but not too long.”
In the meantime, the researchers hired a person to dress up and look like a sick homeless man who had been mugged who was crumpled on the ground in an archway the students would have to go through to reach the other building. As the students stepped over and around him, he would moan and cough a few times to ensure the students knew his condition. Here was an opportunity for the students to put into practice what they were training to be: Caring and compassionate carriers of the Gospel.
The results showed that only 10 percent of those told they were late to the presentation stopped to assist the man in the alley. Forty-five percent of the students who were ‘on time’ stopped to help and yet sixty-three percent of those who were not in a hurry stopped to give aid to the man. One researcher notes, “In light of their training and calling, the seminarians’ failure to help a bystander was probably not due to indifference, self-centeredness, or contempt…The dominant cause is time pressure…In other words, the perception of time pressure or having “limited time” resulted in behaviors incongruent to their education and career which is their devotion to help others.” You see, there is a symbiotic relationship between our busyness and our capacity to love and show kindness.
Perhaps we were a tad bit hasty in tossing the priest and Levite under the bus. You see, you and I are guilty of the same behaviors. Whereas we may think we will act like the Good Samaritan and help others, the studies indicate that 90% of us at worst to 40% at best will not respond to those people in need because we are too darn busy and preoccupied to either notice or feel we have time to care for them.
Beloved, can you relate to any of this? If there was a bumper sticker primed for our American life today it would be, “Too Busy to Care”. It’s not that we are bad people. It’s not that we don’t want to stop. It’s that we consciously choose to busy ourselves to the point we do not to stop and help. Why? Because as a culture, as churches, we are too busy to care!
Friends, think about what this means. If our cultural hurriedness affects our behavior with strangers “out there,” what does it say about the way we treat others in our own church or families at home? What about how we respond to work colleagues or other students?
As we look into the mirror to ensure our spiritual GPS is aligned just right to the frequency of God’s will and plan, let’s remember that it’s to be set pointing to love and kindness. It’s demanding that we slow down and really see our neighbor, our kin, our friends. Like the fictional character, Ferris Bueller once opined, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you miss it.”
The late author Kurt Vonnegut was asked by a college student about the frenetic pace and swirliness of our daily lives today. Vonnegut’s answer to the young man has been pointed out to shine light on what is really the summation of our Christian lives boiled down to utter simplicity. This is what Vonnegut said: “Welcome to Earth, young man. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of: Joe get it in your head, you’ve got to be kind.”
Beloved, in order to do that we have to slow ourselves down. Let’s make a promise that as we leave today, we will march straight to our cards, bikes, scooters or whatever transportation you have and rip off those bumper stickers that say, “Too busy to care!” What do you say!? Amen!!
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2019 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Bartlett, David L.; Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16) JAMES A. WALLACE, C.SS.R., (Kindle Locations 8806-8809). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
 Darley, J.M., and Baston, C.D., “From Jerusalem to Jericho”: A study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior.” JPSP, 1973, 27, 100-108. Accessed on July 10, 2019 at http://faculty.babson.edu/krollag/org_site/soc_psych/darley_samarit.html.
Nagesh Belludi, Lessons from the Princeton Seminary Experiment: People in a Rush are Less Likely to Help Others (and Themselves), June 16, 2015 from the blog “Right Attitudes. Ideas for Impact” accessed on July 10, 2019 at https://www.rightattitudes.com/2015/06/16/people-in-a-rush-are-less-likely-to-help-themselves/.
 Bartlett, David L.; Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16), by Douglas John Hall (Kindle Locations 8689-8690). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition. Vonnegut’s original quote says, “Goddammit, Joe, you’ve got to be kind!” I edited the saying in light of using this in the context of worship.