Put good of whole before self

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

A local pastor writes about keeping the spirit of compassion alive in our public policies and laws.

Commenting is open below.

By Joanna Adams

One of the familiar Bible stories of the Christian tradition has to do with a man who was beaten within an inch of his life.

The poor fellow had been traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when, according to Luke, he “fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him for dead.”

After being ignored by two passersby, a man from Samaria came along and had pity on the man in the ditch. He bandaged his wounds, carried him to an inn and paid for his lodging in advance.

Even then he was not through.

He said to the innkeeper, “Listen, if I haven’t given you enough money, I’ll come back and give you whatever more you spend.”

We are not told where the Good Samaritan went after he left.

Perhaps, he went on about his business, having done one very good deed and being done with the travails of the stranger.

Yet, I wonder.

Given the amount of compassion in his soul, isn’t it at least possible that when he left the inn, he headed back to Jerusalem, the place where public policies and priorities were set?

Would he have tried to get something done about the bandits on the Jericho Road?

Right now, our Georgia Legislature is busy setting significant public priorities and policies that will affect the well-being of millions of Georgians.

Is it not our responsibility as citizens to speak up on behalf of those among us who cannot speak for themselves, especially the most vulnerable among us — the children, the elderly, those who suffer from mental and physical disabilities, those who are daily beaten up by poverty?

Isn’t good policy nothing more or less than compassion gone public?

Yes, government can drive us crazy with its excess and its inefficiencies, but we can’t leave home and travel safely through life without it.

John Winthrop, a Puritan layman, spoke aboard the immigrant ship Arabella before it landed in the New World in 1630.

In his sermon, he outlined a vision that would eventually become the moral framework of a new nation.

He spoke of the need to put the good of the whole before the good of self.

He said that if those coming to the New World were unable to share their abundance with those in need, if they were unwilling to take their public responsibility more seriously than their private convenience, then the new society they were trying to create would be no better than the one they were trying to escape.

“We must be knit together in this work as one. … We must make each other’s condition our own,” he said.

Self and society: It’s the only way we’re going to make it another 383 years.

Joanna Adams is a retired Presbyterian minister in Atlanta. She writes for the Higher Ground Group at www.highergroundgroup.org.

15 comments Add your comment


March 17th, 2013
12:16 pm

For a change of pace I read the comments first and lastly Rev. Adams’ statement. From the tone of some of the posts I was expecting a one-world, government knows best lecture but I didn’t find that.

She’s simply reminding us that some sacrifice for the collective good is necessary to counterbalance the every man for himself urge. I really don’t have a problem with that. It’s why we pay taxes, vote, volunteer for the military, and show up for jury duty. She is not saying that putting the good of the whole ahead of the good of self means anyone has to give up individual liberty and freedom.

South Georgia Retiree

March 17th, 2013
10:22 am

No organization except government has yet proved able enough to be the good Samaritan in our country. Churches and non-profits do make a difference, although small, but the whole is the answer to helping our society thrive with better health, nutrition, education, housing, transportation, defense, and commerce. Yes, there is waste in government, as well as in business, so say what you will, there is no real answer to our plight but to help each other; otherwise, we all suffer.


March 17th, 2013
9:55 am

No one is claiming that we can find utopia or that individual rights don’t matter–I think it is those who are accusing the other side of such beliefs are the ones missing the point. It would be as if you were being accused of wanting us to go back the wild-west or law of the jungle days. I think it is clear that at times we can get more done acting as a nation than a group of separate individuals and that just because we cannot reach perfection does not mean it is not something to strive for.


March 16th, 2013
10:00 pm

You miss the point! It is a thing of personal duty of us as individuals! It is not the duty nor the mandate of our government to TAKE MONEY OR ASSETS FROM ONE INDIVIDUAL OR FAMILY AND GIVE IT TO SOMEONE ELSE UNDER SOME FEEL GOOD SOCIALIST AGENDA IN SEARCH OF UTOPIA! UTOPIA, BY THE WAY, DOES NOT EXIST!


March 16th, 2013
11:21 am

Chip@9:23 am – No Man who is deemed a Slave, is ever HAPPY to serve another Man who himself is already in Bondage.