“A conventional reading of the parable (of the Good Samaritan) understands it as a condemnation of religious hypocrisy, instead of following their religions code of compassion, the Priest and the Levite take a wide swerve past the man who had fallen among thieves.
In fact, this little story is not about the dangers of insincere religion it is about the dangers of sincere religion.
It is not about religious hypocrisy, it is about religious fidelity.
That is the kick in the story, the surprise. The Priest and the Levite followed their religious code to the letter, a code that forbade them to touch foreigners or dead bodies and the naked man by the roadside was probably both.
Their heart prompted compassion, their religion prompted caution and they followed their religion.
But in the Samaritan bound by the same code, compassion overcomes the strictures of his religion, and he goes to the aid of the dangerous stranger.
The story encapsulates Jesus’ attitude to the dangers we are in when we allow our moral code and religious traditions to assume absolute authority over us.
We need moral and religious systems to protect us from the chaos of our passions but if we give them absolute authority they become a greater danger to us than the unfettered passions they are supposed to curb. By this parable and by his dismissive attitude to the rigidities of law and custom, Jesus rendered every code provisional and discardable when confronted with real human need.
The meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan was that compassion was a powerful dissolvent of inherited prejudices.”
Leaving Alexandria – A memoir of faith and doubt by Richard Holloway.
What do you think of Richard Holloway’s reading of the text?
Can you think of a modern application?