“As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, some robbers attacked him. They tore off his clothes, beat him, and left him lying there, almost dead. It happened that a priest was going down that road. When he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. Next, a Levite came there, and after he went over and looked at the man, he walked by on the other side of the road. Then a Samaritan traveling down the road came to where the hurt man was. When he saw the man, he felt very sorry for him. The Samaritan went to him, poured olive oil and wine on his wounds, and bandaged them. Then he put the hurt man on his own donkey and took him to an inn where he cared for him. The next day, the Samaritan brought out two coins, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of this man. If you spend more money on him, I will pay it back to you when I come again,’” (Luke 10:30-35 NCV).
Sometimes, in life the unexpected is performed by the unlikeliest of characters. A lawyer approached Jesus and asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied by telling him the story of the Good Samaritan. A traveler in desperate need of help was passed by the two people who were expected to help, a priest and a Levite, presumably Hebrew, religious leaders of the day. If anyone’s going to help a dying man, it would be a religious leader right? Wrong! In this case, a Samaritan, someone of a race historically mixed with and despised by Hebrews and vice versa was the unlikely hero of the story (Knowles, 2004).
In life and business, the opportunity to extend or withhold help will present itself to us. What we choose to do in that moment will positively or negatively determine our future outcomes. Researcher Thomas Tang and his colleagues conducted a study to test a model of employee helping behavior that explored the intrinsic (i.e. “The Good Samaritan Effect”) and extrinsic (i.e. money) motivations of employees’ decisions to help or not help a co-worker. The study concluded that money negatively affected an employee’s willingness to aid another employee and intrinsic (altruistic) motives (i.e. “The Good Samaritan Effect”) was positively related to helping behavior. The Samaritan had no obligation to help the dying man, yet moved with compassion he tended to the half-dead man above and beyond the call of duty.
Fast forward a couple thousand years and this is how the story of the Good Samaritan might look like in today’s business environment.
A Modern Samaritan
A woman wakes up from a coma wondering where she is. A stranger is by her bedside and her body is wracked with pain. “What happened?” she wonders and to the stranger she struggles, “Wh-who are you?” It even hurts to speak.
“Who I am isn’t important,” he responds. “Only that you get better”.
James sat in his office—recovering from his daily, verbal beat-down from his abuse boss and ready for a night out with his sweetheart makes ready to clock out. But just then, he hears shots outside the office.
James leaves the office and sees a crowd gathering and curiosity prompts him to push forward to see the spectacle. When he saw the couple gunned down like dogs on a highway, the contents of his stomach ascended past his mouth and onto the victims’ helpless bodies.
What he did not know was that the unfortunate couple was his boss and his boss’ wife, Waldorf; they’d been so disfigured by the beating and shootings, that they were unrecognizable.
“How can these people just walk past them and stare doing nothing?” James asked, half to himself and half aloud. He wiped his mouth as he dialed 911 and soon the paramedics arrived.
He watched them load the bloodied bodies in the backs of the ambulances wondering “what if that was my wife? Or what if that was me?” James shuddered at the thought. As the paramedic began to close the door he called out.
“Wait! I’m coming too!”
“Are you a family member?” the paramedic asked confused. “No, but I’m paying the hospital bill!” And just like that, he hopped in the van and they were off.
The woman looks at him again and asks, “Who are you?” in slow, laboured breaths.
“Who I am isn’t important,” James repeats, looking at her husband out of the corner of his eye. “Only that you get better”. It wasn’t until the victims were cleaned up that he finally recognized them.
His response grated on her more than all the combined pain of her current condition and a single tear slid out of Waldorf’s right eye.
What James did for Waldorf and his wife was purely altruistic; when he found out that is was them, it no longer mattered what type of relationship he’d had with his boss. He had the opportunity to extend or withdraw a helping hand. After all, if he’d refused, he would have [mentally] been justified in his actions—his wife was waiting on him for a romantic dinner date. However, he set aside his personal needs to help a total “stranger.” Like the Good Samaritan in the above passage of scripture, James was moved with compassion, and in both cases, lives were saved.
Neither James nor the Good Samaritan knew who they were helping, but they helped anyways. This was Jesus’ point to the lawyer—the victim in the story was robbed and stripped naked, thereby leaving him unidentifiable. His lack of identity emphasized the importance of aiding someone regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, and other labels used to categorize individuals. When it’s all said and done, we are all human, and based on this shared humanity we should reach out and care for others in need when the opportunity arises.
In business, you never know who your next customer might be. You do not know how a small act of kindness could turn that person into an enthused brand ambassador or loyal customer. However, that should not be the motivation for helping others only an added benefit for doing so.
Oh! Did I mention, months after Waldorf and his wife recovered, he visited James and apologized for his nasty behavior toward him?
About the Author:
Namie Bimba is the daughter of missionaries and is an MBA Candidate at Regent University. She blogs about various life experiences, events, culture, fashion, theology, and more at www.missbimba.tumblr.com.
- Biblegateway.com. (2012). The Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-27. New Century Version. Retrieved from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:25-37&version=NCV.
- Knowles, M.P. (2004). What was the victim wearing? Literary, economic, and social contexts for the parable of the Good Samaritan. Biblical Interpretation, 12(2), 145-174.
- Tang, T., Sutarso, T., Davis, G., Dolinski, D., Ibrahim, A., & Wagner, S. (2008). To Help or Not to Help? The Good Samaritan Effect and the Love of Money on Helping Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(4), 865-887.
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