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"The One-Sided Approach of the Good Samaritan"

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: November 20, 1955?

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Sermon

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


In this handwritten sermon outline, King urges his listeners to combine compassion for victims of injustice with efforts to bring about social change.1 He criticizes the Good Samaritan as one who “sought to [soothe] the effects of evil, without going back to uproot the causes.”

  1. Introduction—
    1. Over the centuries the parable of the Good Samaritan has been cited as the a definition of Christian social responsibility.2 There is probably no description of what it means to be a good neighbor more widely known
    2. Point out the virtue of the Good Samaritan in contrast to the Levite & Priest3
    3. Jesus told the story for one purpose only, and we are not to take it as a total description of our social [responsibility?]
    4. The shortcomings of the parable in describing true neighborliness.
    5. Although the parable says nothing concerning [where?] [strikeout illegible] The Levite and the Priest might have been going; let us imagine it is quite probable the Levite was on his way to Jerico to make a survey of crime in the vicinity, and perhaps the priest was en route to Jerusalem to serve on the National Committe for the Improvement of Public Highways.4 So by a slight stretch of the imagination, or at least for argument sake, quite an excellent case can be made for the priest and Levite. Before we completely condemn the Levite and the Priest we should consider this.
  2. But not only is it possible to see the possible elevate the roles of the Priest and Levite; it is also easy to see the shortcomings in the conduct of the Samaritan.
    1. There is no suggestion that the Samaritan organized sough to investigate the lack of police protection on the Jerico Road. Nor did he appeal to any public officials to set out after the robbers and clean up the Jerico road. Here was the weakness of the good Samaritan. He was concerned [merely?] with temporary relief, not with thorough reconstruction. He sought to sooth the effects of evil, without going back to uproot the causes.
  3. Now, without a doubt Christian social responsibility includes the sort of thing the good Samiritan did. So we give to the United Appeals, the Red Cross, to all types of unfortunate conditions.5 In the midst of such staggering and appalling conditions we cannot afford to “pass by on the other side.”6 Like the good Samitan we must always stand ready to decend to the depth of human need. The person who fails to look with compassion upon the thousands of individuals left wounded by life's many roadsides is not only unethical, but ungodly. Every Christian must ply the good Samaritan
  4. But there is another aspect of Christian social responsibility which is just as compelling. It seeks to tear down unjust conditions and build anew instead of patching things up. It seeks to clear the Jerico road of its robbers as well as caring for the victims of robbery.

1. A 20 November 1955 program from Dexter's Sunday morning service indicates that King preached “The One-Sided Approach of the Good Samaritan.”

2. Luke 10:25-37 recounts the parable.

3. Levites were assigned to assist the priests and to perform sanctuary duties in the Temple.

4. In an incomplete draft filed in the same folder as this sermon, King wrote “Give Liston Pope's analysis” at this point in the outline (King, “The One-Sided Approach of the Good Samaritan,” Sermon outline, 20 November 1955). Pope wrote that Jesus “was an emissary to all people, associating with despised groups (including Samaritans) without discrimination…and illustrating neighborliness with a story of a merciful act by a Samaritan” (Pope, The Kingdom Beyond Caste [New York: Friendship Press, 1957], p. 149). Liston Pope was a professor of social ethics at Yale University, and served as dean of its Divinity School from 1949 until 1962.

5. The United Appeal was a fund-raising campaign for local charities.

6. Cf. Luke 10:31-32.

Source: CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon Files, folder 117.

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