Are we our brother’s keeper? Do the wealthy have any responsibility to assist the poor? In terms of Christians, do we have the responsibility of assisting anyone but ourselves? The bible has a very definitive answer when it comes to the question Cain asked in the very beginning, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Good Samaritan
In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus was asked, who is our neighbor? He described 3 men who had come across a man who had been attacked by a band of thieves who had left him half dead. One man was a Priest, one was a Levite, and one was a Samaritan.
Were the Levite and priest right in not assisting this man they had found? If one is not his brother’s keeper, what was wrong with their conduct? They did not strip the man of his garments, wound him, and leave him half dead. They passed by without doing him harm. However, they were responsible to help him. Why? Because one should love his neighbor as he loves himself (Mk 12:33). Paul wrote that no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourished it and cherished it (Eph 5:29).
The Priest and Levite were devout followers of the law of Moses which command one to love our neighbor as ourselves, and yet they broke the law (Lev 19:18).
The Samaritans were enemies of the Jews. They had no dealings with each other whatsoever. The Priest and the Levite would not even help their own countryman. Yet, the Samaritan, who shouldn’t be expected to aid a Jew, overcame his hostility and helped the wounded man. He didn’t see a Jew, but rather he saw a wounded man, a neighbor, a brother, one who needed aid and did all that was necessary.
Jesus was pointing out that the righteous way too often knows the law, but rarely keep the heart of the law. He was pointing out that those who didn’t know the law of God were more apt to keep the heart of the law, which was to love our neighbor as ourselves. This Paul said fulfilled the law (Gal 5:14).
Jesus taught the same doctrine on his sermon on the mount when he said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Paul stated love fulfilled the law (Rom 13:10).
Paul stated we are to do good unto all men, especially fellow Christians (Gal 6:10). The beloved John wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:17-19).
The church itself, from its very conception, was a one for all and all for one institution. The early day church in Acts chapter 2 verifies that they sold their possessions and goods, and parted unto all men as they had need. Paul commanded that every church member give of their means each first day of the week in order to help the needy saints (1 Cor 16:1,2).
Selfishness and greed was the condemnation of Sodom and Gomorrah and was never a part of the churches of Christ. To this end, the story of the good Samaritan was not just written to the hypocritical Pharisees but was written to the church itself. As Jesus said concerning the Pharisees, whatsoever they bid, observe and do, but don’t do after their works, for they say and do not (Matt 23:3).
Conclusion: Jesus was not teaching us to violate the law or that we are saved by our good deeds, but rather that those who keep the law in truth do it both in words and in deeds (1 Cor 13:1-3 f; 1 Jn 3:19). Jesus was shaming those who knew the law, and yet were not keeping the weightier matters of the law of mercy and faith (Matt 23:23). True Christians are conservative concerning the doctrine of Christ, and are liberal with their charity to the poor and needy (2 Jn 9 f; 1 Tim 6:18).
Each individual in order to be saved must obey the gospel, and remain faithful unto death (Rom 10:9,10 ff; Acts 2:38; Rev 2:10). And to fulfill or complete our salvation we must do good unto all mankind (Gal 6:10). This we must do to friend and foe, sinner and saint, and all that are in need of our help, no matter how vile or evil they may be. As God has had compassion on us, we must also have compassion on the world. (Matt 18:33 f; Eph 4:32). Being our brother’s keeper is how the world knows us, and how God defines us as the children of God (Jn 13:35). After all, did not Jesus say, “It not more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)?