Anne Lindley — The Good Samaritan and the Social Safety Net

The Good Samaritan, Rembrandt (1630)

I invited a few friends to respond to this week’s #PatheosElection question: What are the key issues for people of your tradition to consider as they approach this election?

Here’s the answer from Anne Lindley, a public librarian in Connecticut who worships with the Quakers and writes about spirituality and creativity at

As a Christian, I believe Jesus was not kidding when He said “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Jesus talks about offering meat and drink, providing clothes, helping the sick. How about us? What should we do for our sisters and brothers? What kind of a social safety net should we try to provide in our country? This election gives Christians the chance to show what we believe Jesus meant.

When detractors of our current social safety net slam it as a system that encourages dependency, “personal responsibility” is their watchword. They don’t want to “reward failure” or “shield people from the consequences of their bad decisions.” I accept that many people who talk this way have good intentions. But I don’t think Jesus would back them up on this one.

I think the social safety net Jesus endorses is in the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan did not know anything about the man whom he found naked and beaten on the road. He didn’t know whether he had been injured in a robbery or in a drug deal gone bad. He didn’t know whether the victim paid income tax or not. He didn’t ask him whether he was one of the 47 percent who feel “entitled” to health care at no cost. The Good Samaritan believed this man, injured and penniless, deserved health care because he was a human being. Jesus told his disciples to follow that example.

When I need help, when I am down on my luck, I dearly hope to be given a helping hand, even if (especially if) my own boneheaded mistake got me there. I would be grateful for a sandwich to tide me over to another day when I can pick myself up and sort myself out. That is how I want to be treated, that is how I would treat someone I love, and that is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. I choose the social safety net of the Good Samaritan, who went out of his way to help a person about whom he knew nothing — except that he needed help. That is the kind of society we should be working towards, if we take Jesus seriously.

— Anne Lindley


Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

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