Don’t make eye contact
Why is Jesus so frustratingly upside down and backwards toward everything “normal”?
I mean, really. He knows what our realities are. He knows how people think and act. And still he persists in suggesting an approach to things which, well…
Here’s an example. We all know the reality of this statement, “If you give an inch, they will take a mile.” You know this especially well if you have kids or have recently said yes to the phone survey person who said, “This is just a short 5 minute survey.” Against your better judgement you gave an inch and now, twenty-five minutes later you are signed up for a vacation rental in Florida and have donated money to kidney research. Or maybe, it was your kidney that you donated and the money went to Florida? In any case, you gave an inch and you have been dragged a mile.
That’s why you just don’t give it! Nothing! Not even a glance. You know exactly what I mean. You walk by the same kiosks in the mall that I do with the salespeople out front. Don’t make eye contact. If you do they will suck you into their vortex and next thing you know you will be sitting in a chair with some guy smearing Dead Sea mud onto your face.
It’s not that we don’t like people. Rather, we are busy. Places to go, things to do, important meetings to be in, business to generate, meals to prepare, money to make and money to spend. We are focused – pressing on toward the goal! And, if you give an inch, you will lose a mile. And Jesus could so easily see things the same way, if he wanted to. Remember, the story he made up about the Samaritan? Not the story that took place around the water well, no that story is real. Think of the story about a different Samaritan, a good one.
Jesus told the story in reference to a question about your neighbour; the same neighbour who asks for an inch and then takes your shovel, permanently. Jesus begins the story by describing how a self-respecting priest who by vocation is busy connecting humanity to God displays great skill in avoiding entanglement in the predicament of another person who no doubt got himself into a bit of trouble (after all, why else would you get beat up on the road in broad daylight. Gang affiliations probably.) Jesus explains how the priest avoided eye contact and passed on the other side. He successfully kept his inch and saved himself a mile. Jesus highlights this (good) behaviour by telling of another person, a Levite (think, well-mannered Canadian), who has the same success in getting by the situation.
The Samaritan guy though? What a sucker. Look at all the mistakes he makes as described by Jesus. “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him (nothing wrong yet), he took pity on him.” Oh, how poorly played. Everyone knows the very first rule is to keep your emotions deeply submerged, separated even, from your day to day.
Let’s continue. “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.” What? This Samaritan guy has gone completely overboard. I can concede the human decency dictates we should at least stop and see if the guy is still breathing, and then call someone else to come help. But to dress and bandage and use your own bandage (the one you carry in your purse, for emergencies). “Then, he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” Blood stains on my vehicle, not cool. Just curious, but did they have donkey washes as fundraisers back then?
“The next day…” Ok, this is out of control. Jesus is really going to prove his point with this guy. We can all see how a little twinge of emotion turned into a donkey washing expense and now a whole day of lost productivity.“The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him, ‘ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
This is just plain crazy. No one gives that kind of inch to innkeeper, “any extra expense”? Sure, just get what you need and I’ll pay for it all when I come back. Would you be surprised if the innkeeper decided he needed a new donkey?
So Jesus wraps up the story and them says something like, “Who did the right thing here?” The Samaritan who was ‘taken’ for the equivalent of many miles? Or the priest who kept his resources, his reputation and his next meeting in tact? About one of them Jesus says to us, “Go and do likewise.”
I really, really hope Jesus agrees with me on what the right answer is here.