One day a merchant was traveling on a road when he was attacked by bandits. The bandits were so cruel that they beat the merchant, stole everything he had, and left him for dead lying on the side of the road. The merchant was so badly hurt he couldn’t move or speak at all, and he could barely see through his swollen black eyes.
A long time passed, then down the road came a priest, a man of God. That priest looked good. He was wearing a fancy new robe and he was nice and clean from a recent bath. When the merchant saw the priest coming, he became excited. “Surely this priest will help me,” he thought. But when the priest saw the man lying on the side of the road, he just kept on walking and passed him right by.
After a time, the merchant saw another man coming down the road. This man was a temple helper and he looked good. He was well groomed and had a nice new haircut. He wore beautiful colorful robes and had a winning smile. Once again the merchant became hopeful. “Surely this man will help me,” he thought. But when the temple helper saw the merchant lying on the side of the road, he just kept on walking and passed him right by.
A very long time passed, and the merchant began to lose hope. “I will die here on the side of the road,” he thought. But then he saw another man walking down the road with a donkey. This man did not look too good. He was dirty and his clothes had holes in them. He did not look like he had shaved or cut his hair in a long, long time.
“This man will not help me,” thought the merchant. “He is from Samaria and Samaritans hate my people.” But when the man saw the merchant lying on the side of the road, he stopped. He was moved with compassion. The Samaritan washed and bandaged the merchant’s wounds. He put the merchant onto the back of his donkey, carried him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, as the Samaritan prepared to leave, he gave the innkeeper money and said, “Please take care of this man. When I return I will pay you any more money that you may spend.”
From his window in the inn, the merchant could see the Samaritan walking off into the distance. He was too weak to call out or even to speak his thanks. But ever since that time the merchant has known deep in his heart that there is a big difference between looking good and being good.