Disaster Strikes. Again.

Paul Zilmer


“The greatest commandments are:  Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor like you take care of yourself.”

“Who qualifies as my neighbor?”

“Let me tell you a story…  So who was the neighbor of the wounded man?”

“The compassionate one.”

“Just right.  Go and do the same.”


We know this story so well we can tell it almost word for word.  If we grew up in Sunday School we’ve known it since we were first graders.  The compassionate one didn’t know the victim.  He was in a despised minority, and the wounded man might have hated him.  Didn’t matter.  The standard set by Jesus is:  Would I like to get help if I can’t help myself?  Of course I would—so there’s no option of walking around the victim.

There have always been disasters, and there always will be until God’s Kingdom wipes away every tear.  This week we are seeing yet another, the earthquake in Haiti.  With deaths and injuries in the thousands, and people without homes in the ten thousands, these people were already among the poorest in the world.  We feel for them sincerely, it breaks our hearts.  Jesus instructs us, though, that this really isn’t sufficient.

It might be feasible for a few to help directly, hands on, as the Samaritan did.  For most of us that’s an impossibility.  What’s within our reach is to participating in funding those who are in a position to provide help.  Even if we can’t bind up wounds directly, we can give some money to an “innkeeper” who’s willing to take care of the wounded man.

There are a lot of charitable organizations that exist mainly for fundraising, taking in piles of money, little of which goes to victims.  We need to do our research, find ones that are channeling almost all the funds to real aid—in this case getting medical equipment and medical providers on site, providing temporary shelter, getting food and water to victims.

Another thing Jesus said:  “You always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.”  (Mark 14:7)  In other words, there will always be need—part of it is that disasters large and small will keep happening.  But notice, we are not ever in a position where we can’t do good for others.  Whenever we want, Jesus says we can do good.  Sometimes that will be lifting the wounded with our own hands, sometimes it will be providing cash to the innkeeper who will take on the responsibility.  That’s the model shown to us, and the command is, “Do the same.”

Love, Paul