Just who is a Good Samaritan?
And Jesus answering said, "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at that place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, he brought him to an inn and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, "Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."" 1 Luke 10:30-36, NKJV
Unfortunately, in modern times, the Good Samaritan has taken on other less desirable characteristics. Let us revisit the modern Good Samaritan.
What are these characteristics of the modern Good Samaritan? Just…
Who is "The Good Samaritan Revisited?"
Well, the story goes the same way as above until the Good Samaritan chooses a different inn, and then it takes a turn. Instead of taking the injured man directly to the inn, he brought him to his Aunt Emma’s, and asked her what she thought he should do. Aunt Emma told him that she heard of an inn down the way that could take care of the injured man. Instead of staying overnight, however, the Good Samaritan left the same day, where he took out two pence, gave them to the innkeeper while, leaving out the back door, and said, "Take care of him with the twopence." Because the innkeeper never saw the Samaritan again, the innkeeper spent the two “pence on wine, women, and song, while neglecting the injured man. And the innkeeper raised a sign, which read, “More Good Samaritans Wanted. Bring Money."
In Luke’s version of “The Good Samaritan,” the Good Samaritan used his own judgment based on past experience with the inn. He checked out “The Good Innkeeper” by staying at his inn for a day. He noticed the room was clean, the meals were on time, and the innkeeper’s customers were happy. He took care of the injured man personally. He purposefully made his way back to repay the innkeeper, and to see what kind of a job the innkeeper did in taking care of the injured man.
In the modern version of “The Good Samaritan”, The Good Samaritan used his Aunt Emma’s judgment and experience with the inn. He stayed only long enough to drop off his charge, and neglected to take care of the injured man personally. He had no personal experience with the innkeeper’s care. He purposefully decided never to return to the inn, so he wouldn’t need to repay the innkeeper, and he neglected to see what kind of a job the innkeeper did in taking care of the injured man.
Today, most people do not pick up people by the side of the road, in order to take care of them, given the necessary security precautions modern life necessitates. However, Americans do give to charitable institutions that we trust to take care of the sick, poor, and needy. Whether you are an individual trying to decide which charitable institution to donate to, the executive of the charitable institution yourself, or a business executive representing a business, which donates to charity, there are certain modern guidelines you should follow.
Even though modern life has changed things, Luke’s Version of “The Good Samaritan”still has great truths to teach us in dealing with charities. It abdicates the virtues of personal responsibility, and accountability. The Good Samaritan in modern life is goodhearted, but careless. He may give to anyone who puts up a shingle, reading, “Reputable Charity.”
Modern life, not withstanding, we have the responsibility of interacting with our charities not only good-heartedly, but prudently. Like “The Good Samaritan” in the well-known parable, we still have the responsibility of personally investigating charities, before we donate to them. We still have the responsibility of making our way back, to see if the charities need other funds to complete the project, and to check on the quality of their work. Charities themselves need to institute procedures that follow through on their tasks, and institute quality control measures. Luke’s version of “The Good Samaritan” stresses not only good heartedness, but also personal responsibility, and accountability. Virtues still needed, but not necessarily headed in our times.
Exhort, and watch your innkeepers.
Just how do you investigate these modern innkeepers of contemporary times? You can call the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in order to see if any legal complaints are registered against your charity.2 Your state’s Secretary of State’s office can tell you if the charity is registered as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit charity,3 and they can tell you which state laws apply to your charity.4 Your local state attorney general's office will tell you if the charity has any legal complaints registered against your charity. 3
Since business plans are the means that a charity will use to carry out its goal, you should demand detail written descriptions of the charity's financial statements, mission statements, and business plans. 3 If you find something you don't like demand, no exhort that the charity managers change their policy, and refuse to give.
Minister in compassionate carefulness.
Beware of charities that refuse to give you this information, citing claims that they don’t have enough staff and time to answer all of your questions. Out of the ashes of the World Trade Center tragedies fake charities that used genuine charity names arose like Phoenixes, proving you can never be too careful.2 Always pay by check. This way you could stop payment on a check, if you discover they are not reputable. Even for legitimate charities, cash donations are too easy, and too tempting to embezzle.
Charity paid for by other people’s money is not charity. During the September 11th tragedy’s aftermath, it was broadcasted on the CBS news that people were borrowing money for the United Way’s September 11th Fund.5 Creditors money is other people’s money. You want the full benefit of your goods. Pay by credit card only by choice, only for convenience, and not on the insistence of the charity. Pay off your card every month in order to never pay interest on a credit card loan to a charity.
Follow “The Golden Rule” by applying accountability.
The Golden Rule, states “Do onto others, as you would have them do onto you.” Luke’s “Good Samaritan” prudently checks back with the innkeeper. If you were the injured party wouldn't you want people to check on your welfare? Apply accountability; request to tour the charity’s facilities, and ask to talk to some of the people that the charity helped. Questions to ask the recipients can include--How were you treated by the charity? Were you thoroughly helped?
Other questions to ask yourself include--Did you observe the charity operating in a moral and ethical manner towards everyone, including the charity’s creditors, its benefactors, the press, the society at large, its employees, and volunteers? Did the funds go, where the charity said they would go? Does the charity have enough funds to meet their goal? Was there a follow up procedural tracking system in place in order to follow up and help the recipients at a later time? Does the charity release tax returns to the public, an IRS requirement? Is the charity listed in the phone book? 6
If you can, volunteer in order to experience charities actions close at hand. The “Good Samaritan” in you will work your way back in order to repay the innkeeper. Check on the innkeeper. Closely watched innkeepers, are better innkeepers. Remember charities with nothing to hide will welcome involvement.
Diligently rule over compassionate funds.
Some stays at the inn bring forth good news. Other stays at the inn issue forth careless innkeepers. What if you yourself can’t personally volunteer your time, but you still want to know more about another charity? Both good reports, and exposes about any charity can be found at your local public or university library. All it requires is a valid library card. Reference librarians can help you research literature about a charity, or for a substantial fee, they will conduct a computerized literature search of their databases for you. 7 You don’t even have to physically access the library. Databases are now available remotely through your home computer by accessing the Internet. See your local reference librarian for more information.
Investigate distressing mercy.
Besides reviewing print media at your local library, listening to the broadcast media is also a good source of information about charitable activities. By watching the evening news, and listening to the radio, you can tell you how the recipients of the charities are treated. For example on October 26, 2001, it was reported on the CBS news that widows of the World Trade Center were not being contacted by the charities in a timely enough manner in order to meet their October home mortgage payments. 5
Avoid complicated giving that appears simple.
All of us have given to charities for less than charitable reasons. We may feel that in order to be promoted and accepted at work, we need to give to our employer sponsored charities even though we may have a hard time paying our own grocery bills, and budgeting for our own financial future. Our giving then becomes complicated, our ruling over our funds careless, and our mercy is distressing. Automated payroll deductions for charity looks simple, but in reality is complicated giving, especially if unexpected personal expenses stretch that paycheck too thin.
Preside with diligence.
Unfortunately, like the modern Good Samaritan, who followed Aunt Emma's recommendation, today, people will give to charities, just because their employer invites a charity in for a fund raising chat. Modern American’s assume that their employer personally investigated the recommended charities. You may assume that your employer had contacted some of the watchdog organizations, such as The American Institute of Philanthropy in Bethesda, MD, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance in Arlington, VA, and Better Business Bureaus around the country that are helpful in overseeing some of the activities of our well-known charities. 8 This may or may not be true. Don't just give blindly to someone in power's favorite charity. Think for yourself.
Even if your work environment has assigned the Vice President of Public Affairs the role of approving and investigating company-sponsored charities, he may not share the ideal of full disclosure. He may have found unsettling information, but decided not to share it.
Even worse is that some companies don’t have any type of policy toward charities at all, and neglect to assign a company watchdog. Charitable endorsements can then sneak through the back door. “Title 44 Chapter 19” of The Arizona Revised Statutes states that, “knowingly making a misrepresentation to a person that another person sponsors, endorses, or approves, the (charitable) solicitation if the other person has not given consent in writing to the use of his name for that purpose,” is a civil penalty.4
Nowadays it is easy for a charity to "borrow" a company logo off a company website for use on a charity's brochure for an implied endorsement. And don't say, "Oh that would never happen." When I once worked at ABC Company, it did happen. Some independent contractor, not even an employee, borrowed a logo off of a site, all the employees thought it was a company approved charity, and then on further investigation found out differently.
After we viewed the official looking charity brochure with the company logo on it, everybody else, thought everybody else had lent their consent, when in effect an independent contractor, a salesperson had initiated the endorsement. A clear and concise written company policy that designates a high-ranking official company gatekeeper can prevent misrepresentation, fraud, and much embarrassment caused by unauthorized company, and noncompany personnel. Rule with diligence over your company's, and your own personal funds.
Teach charitable giving.
In an Arizona Republic article entitled, “Emotions Drive Moral Decisions, Study Hints,”a Princeton University researcher study backs a theory that we give voice to the fact that our moral judgments are based on reason, but we really act on emotions, and make up reasons for our actions, afterwards. 9 In other words, national awareness, emotional advertisements, and widespread advertised support of the more familiar charities does not absolve you from personally investigating the charities to which you donate money. According to Jesuit priest James F. Keenen, S.J., in an article, entitled “Telling Right From Wrong-On Giving Moral Advice”, each person is responsible to God, himself, and others for forming and following a right conscience. 10 Does actions by your employer's charity follow "your" own conscience? Not your employer's, and not your Aunt Emma's.
Don’t abdicate responsibility, because you believe that the amount of money isn’t relevant. This virtue of personal responsibility applies whether the funds involve “The Good Samaritan’s” two pence, or your two dollars. It's not the amount; it's the principle. "He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."1 Luke 16:10, NKJV
If this sounds too complicated, it is. Some professional athletes with philanthropic hearts, and large wallets have hired researchers, or if you like, professional charitable giving teachers, to help them choose charities. These researchers advise the athletes on where they will get the most effective, and efficient results with their financial gifts, creating a unique opportunity. 11 But with most of us, a little bit of our own research will suffice to prevent the unscrupulous innkeepers from thriving.
Stewardship is prudential, and personal. Instead of making a check out to a favorite medical charity, you can offer that friend who has cancer your time. Simply, offer to drive her to the doctor’s once a week to show your support. Writing a check can be easy, convenient, and uncomplicated. A Good Samaritan finds that personal time is hard, timely, neighborly, and unexpected, and sometimes more appreciated then writing a check to a charity.
Prophesize in faith; heed warnings.
Don't worry about your favorite cause, not being covered by any charity, due to your lack of giving. Funding an unscrupulous charity, just because it’s the only one covering your special cause in unjustified. Out of the ashes, scrupulous charities will rise up as Phoenixes to take their place.“For I say unto you, That unto every one which has shall be given; and from him that has not, even that which he has shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would have not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me." 1 Luke 19:26-28, NKJV
Practice cheerfulness in mercy.
According to Calvin Woodard in an Arizona Republic article entitled, "Americans Giving More to Charity, but Trusting Less,” misgivings in giving is up. Cheerfulness in mercy can't happen when Americans are suspicious in their giving. 3
You can start to ask questions. You can stop giving blindly. You want the full benefit of your goods, and yet, still take care of your neighbors.
Perform a charitable act.
"Having then gifts differing according to the grace that has been given us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teaches, on teaching; or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness." 1 Romans 12:6-8, NKJV
Giving in simplicity, presiding over funds with diligence, mercy with cheerfulness, exhortation of the truth, prophesizing in proportion to faith while heeding warnings, and ministering with carefulness, as well as compassion, all are laudable virtues. Luke’s, Good Samaritan, never viewed charity as a popularity contest, or as a convenience. Like the true Good Samaritan, who stayed at the inn, a little bit of investigating, before giving to a charity can be a charitable act, in and of itself. 3
Revisit “The Good Samaritan”.
Luke 10:35, and its modern version, highlights two kinds of good-hearted “Good Samaritans.”
In Luke 10:35’s version, “The Good Samaritan”, used his own judgment based on past experience with the innkeeper. He reacted personally, inconveniently, carefully, and responsibly.
In its modern version, “The Good Samaritan”, used other people’s judgments. He reacted impersonally, conveniently, carelessly, and irresponsibly.
Of the two versions which of these two Samaritans “proved himself neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”
Is it the one who followed “The Golden Rule” and made his way back, “To love his neighbor, as himself?” Or is it the one “who paid the innkeeper, and snuck out the back way?”
Is it the one who "at every moment did what love required?" Or is it the one who “took the easy way out?”
You know the answer. It is the one who “rules with diligence, gives in simplicity, exhorts truthfully, prophesizes warnings, ministers with carefulness, as well as compassion,and performs cheerfulness in mercy.”
Then Jesus said unto him, "Go, and do thou likewise."1 Luke 10:37, NKJV
1 Scriptural quotations taken from Today’s Parallel Bible, King James Version (c) 2000 by The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA, Used by permission.
2 Maureen West, The Arizona Republic, Editor, Pam Johnson, "Fund-Raising Scams Surface" Phoenix Newspapers Inc. 200 E Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85004, September 24, 2001, p A-82.
3 Associated Press Calvin Woodard, The Arizona Republic, Editor, Pam Johnson, "Americans Giving More to Charity, but Trusting Less", Phoenix Newspapers Inc. 200 E. Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85004, April 24, 1997, p. E-2.
4 “Title 44 Chapter 19”, Arizona Revised Statutes, 2001 Edition.
5 Dan Rather, Anchorperson, CBS News, Broadcast Date October 26, 2001.
6 Craig Harris, The Arizona Republic, Editor, Pam Johnson, "Athletes’ Charities: A Mixed Bag", Phoenix Newspapers Inc. 200 E. Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85004, August 25, 2002, p. C-15.
7 Interview with Carole Towles, Interlibrary Loan Supervisor, Burton Barr Public Library, City of Phoenix, Phoenix Public Library, 1221 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004, October 25, 2001.
8 Diego Ibarguen, Associated Press, The Arizona Republic, Editor, Pam Johnson,"Red Cross Redirects Liberty Fund", Phoenix Newspapers Inc. 200 E. Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85004, October 30, 2001, p. A-5
9 Lauran Neergaard, AP, “Emotions Drive Moral Decisions, Study Hints”, The Arizona Republic, Editor, Pam Johnson, Phoenix Newspapers Inc. 200 E. Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85004, October 22, 2001, p. E-1.
10 James F. Keenan, S.J., “Telling Right From Wrong-On Giving Moral Advice”, Catholic Digest, Richard J. Reece, Editor, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105, July 1996, pp. 78-83.
11 Craig Harris, “Phoenix Women Aid Charitable Athletes”, The Arizona Republic, Editor, Pam Johnson, Phoenix Newspapers Inc. 200 E. Van Buren, Phoenix, AZ 85004, October 22, 2001, p. C-14.