Takers, Observers and Givers

Title: Takers, Observers and Givers

Bible Book: Luke 10 : 25-37

Author: J. Gerald Harris

Subject: Sacrifice; Patriotism; Salvation



Today we come to pay our tribute to those who have died so that others might live. And we have come to honor military personnel and public servants who place their lives on the line every day so that we might live a life of peace and tranquility.

I struggled over a text for this message. But when I came to this passage in Luke 10, I said to my self, "That's it. That is the passage that I will use for my Memorial Day message."

The story of the Good Samaritan told in Luke 10 is one of the most beautiful stories of all time.

A lawyer came to Jesus asking questions, and unfortunately he was not an honest inquirer. He was trying to trap Jesus. First of all, He asked, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

The lawyer answered his own question in verse 27 when he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart, and with all they soul and with all they strength, and with all they mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.”

And then he asked Jesus the question, “Who is my neighbor?” and in response to that Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. And in the story you have three categories of people

I. The Takers

Look in verse 30. We are told that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was infested with thieves and robbers of the worst sort. Jesus declared that a certain man was traveling down that highway when he fell among thieves. These thieves stripped him of his clothing, wounded him and left him for dead. They obviously took from him everything that he had. Their philosophy was “whatever is thine is mine and I'll take it." The thieves represent the takers. John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not but for to kill, steal and destroy…”

Our society is filled with takers, parasites, leeches, predators. Their creed is greed and their god is gold and their philosophy is to take and destroy.

As a young boy I remember quite distinctly an experience I had one Monday morning while walking to school. I occasionally altered my route from home to school for the sake of variety. On this particular Monday morning my path carried me through the property of my home church, the First Baptist Church of Valdese, NC. As I was walking between the worship center and the educational building of our church, I saw a large box which I recognized as the church safe. It was indeed out of place in the church yard, and upon closer inspection I observed that the door to the safe was ajar.

In a matter of moments others arrived on the scene. Church leaders and the police concluded that robbers had entered the church during the night, found the safe, somehow carted it into the church courtyard, pried open the door and taken all the money from Sunday's offerings.

The questions, the investigations and the manhunt that followed were amazement to me. I could not believe that anyone would forcibly break into the church office, vandalize the house of God and steal the offerings which the believers had brought to give to the Lord. In my mind it was incredible that such a thing could ever happen.

Occasionally we will read in the newspaper about some thief who will break into the home of an elderly person and steal their belongings, and on occasion even physically harm the aged victim.

And then you’ve got takers like Sean Patrick Gobel, a truck driver, who has been indicted on charges of killing women in North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana. There are also authorities in Florida, Kentucky, Virginia and Georgia who want to question Gobel about the slaying of other women whose bodies have been found near interstate highways.

So you have the takers, the John Dillingers, the Al Capones, the Bonnie and Clydes, the Timothy McVeighs and the Terry Nichols of society. Their philosophy- “whatever is thine is mine and I’ll take it.

II. The Observers

But then you have the observers.

In the story that was told by the Lord Jesus Christ, there was a man who was robbed and left for dead. A certain priest came by, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. The same thing happened with the Levite. The Bible says, “when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side." The priest and the Levite constitute the observers, their philosophy: “whatever is mine is mine and I’ll keep it.”

Now, please understand that the priest and the Levite were the religious people of the day. They were religious, but they were indifferent to human need. They were insensitive to the pain and to the loss of this poor victim by the side of the road.

Note that F. B. Meyer said, “I believe that if there is one thing which pierces the Master's heart with unutterable grief, it is not the world's iniquity, but the church's indifference."

In speaking of the apathy of the church, Albert George Butzer said, "Some Christians are not only like salt that has lost its savor, but like pepper that has lost its pep."

George Bernard Shaw said, "The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them."

But in the church and in society, you have those who are just observers. William Schlamm has suggested an epitaph for our society. Here it is: "This civilization died because it didn't want to be bothered."

I came across an article the other day entitled "Where Are The Samaritans?" The article contained four different stories about evident needs to which no one responded. The first article had to do with a New York City mailman. He was shot by a sniper and was ordered from a building lobby because he was dripping blood.

The second article came from Oklahoma City. This was an incident that occurred before the bombing. But in Oklahoma City there was a woman who gave birth unexpectedly on a city sidewalk. Bystanders turned their faces. A taxi driver looked on the scene and then drove away. And a nearby hotel refused to give a blanket to the mother to wrap the baby in.

The third story told about an incident in Dayton, Ohio. A dozen people in Dayton saw a woman drive her car into the Miami River. They watched indifferently as the woman climbed on the car's roof and screamed that she could not swim. The woman drowned.

The fourth story was about a nine-year-old boy by the name of Jimmy Wilkinson who was playing with a pail when he fell into Lake Ontario. At the time, about twenty men were fishing for smelt and they could have saved him. They had nets and everything else. One man had a pole and poked around for a while. Then he went back to his fishing. The harbor police recovered the body six minutes after they arrived and said that someone should have made the effort to help the boy. But no one did. They just stood around and looked.

So you have the takers. And then you have the observers. I know I don't want to be a taker, and God help me not to be an observer. I want my life to be a challenge, not a compromise. And then finally we have

III. The Givers

The Good Samaritan in our story was a giver- His philosophy-“whatever is mine is thine and you can have it.”

Today it is our desire to honor the givers. It is our desire to pay our tribute to those who have given, to those who have made a contribution to life.

Our history and our heritage as a nation is too long and too glorious to be recounted in one Memorial Day message. But America's history is written in the blood of her patriots who fell in battle from Lexington to Desert Storm.

What price has been paid for our freedom? In the Revolutionary War 4,435 died. In the War of 1812 2,2260 died. In the Mexican War 13,282 died. In the Civil War 529,332 died. In the Spanish America War 2,446 died. In World War II 407,828 died. In the Korean War 54,246 died. In Vietnam 56,237 died. And of course, in Desert Storm the causalities were minimal. But the price of our freedom has been paid by the blood of those who have defended the Stars and Stripes.

Usually in a service like this we think of the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force. You know, perhaps we forget the Coast Guard. But I heard a story from the Coast Guard that typifies the spirit of the armed forces.

Captain Pat Ethridge was in charge of the United States Coast Guard unit at the Cape Hatteras station off the coast of North Carolina. One night in a howling hurricane, the lookout observed a distress signal from a ship that had gone aground on the dangerous diamond shoals ten miles at sea. The lifeboats could be easily launched; the lookout thought, but getting them back in again would be another story. Captain Ethridge ordered the boats rolled out. One of the lifeguards protested, "Captain Pat, we can get out there but we can never get back,"

"But men," came the reply that has gone down in history, "we don't have to come back, but we've got to go."

I think that must have been the challenge accepted by every person in military service, and also the challenge accepted by those in public service. And today we're also pleased to recognize those who are law enforcement officers and fire fighters and rescue workers and those who answer those 911 calls.

We have a very dear friend by the name of Bill Conley who was a police officer in Jackson, Mississippi. He was injured in the line of duty — a brave and courageous man. I noticed by doing some research in our public library recently that Gregory P. Mullinax of the Austell Police Department was killed in the line of duty in 1981. I observed that Harvey J. Adams of the Marietta Police Department was killed in the line of duty in 1986.

And some of you may remember when Robert J. Ingram was shot to death in the line of duty in July of 1993. He was 24 years of age. He had been on the Cobb County Police Force only two years. He had stopped a man to question him about some suspicious behavior, and the man shot and killed him. Officer Ingram was a Marietta native and he lived in Kennesaw. He and his wife Jennifer had been married only three months.

Detective Bureau Chief Arthur Aired said of lngram, "He was a guy in uniform, just out doing his job, just starting out on his career. This was one of those calls you know you're going to get one day. But it's a shock, I can tell you.

"He had the promise of a bright future. He worked hard, made friends quickly and seemed to enjoy his job- Major Toby Toler, the assistant chief who hired Ingram, said, "Police officers put themselves at risk day after day. They are assaulted. They are injured day after day. Sometimes they die."

The very same thing is true of fire fighters who now split their duties between fighting fires and rescue work. In fact, I was reading the other day that fire fighters have the most hazardous occupation in the nation.

The Cobb County Fire Department was established in 1971, and since then three fire fighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. There are approximately 135-140 injuries to fire fighters in Cobb County every year, and these injuries are sufficient to put the fire fighters out of work for a period of time. It may also interest you to know; there are 1500 substantial fires in Cobb County every year. The fire fighters of Cobb County answer approximately 40,000 calls a year, 70 percent of them are for medical aid. The last fire fighter in Cobb County to lose his life in the line of duty was Bobby Carter, and that was in 1985.

Of course, the bombing in Oklahoma City has captivated our country for weeks now. And today I think we are reminded of the fire fighter who was carrying the little baby from the devastation. His name is Chris Fields. He had rushed to the Murray Building minutes after the explosion. There was a police officer who had arrived on the scene just before Chris Fields. The police officer was already clawing through the wreckage trying to reach a baby. The child was covered in building insulation and the police officer extricated the baby quickly, handing the tiny body to the firefighter. Chris Fields cradle the child in his arms, rushing her toward waiting emergency vehicles. “I couldn’t tell if the skull was cracked,” Fields said, “but the head was cut open. It almost made you want to throw up.”

The baby girl in Fields’ arms had just turned a year old. She died soon after Fields turned her over to rescue workers. Long after the fates of those responsible for the bombing are decided, America will find it hard to forget the image of Chris Fields and his tender care for the dying child.

That picture, which is indelibly etched into our minds, epitomizes the theme of this worship service today. And we do salute those men and women in the armed forces and those men and women in the public service who place their lives on the line so that we might live a life of tranquility and peace.

These are the good Samaritans. In the story that Jesus told, the Good Samaritan cared enough to stop and help. In verse 33 the Bible says, "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was (that is, to the victim of the robbery) and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him."

By the way, I want you to know it was risky business for a Samaritan to do that. The Jews hated the Samaritans. The Jews treated the Samaritans despicably. They were half breeds. The Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans. They generally hated the Samaritans. So for a Samaritan to go into Jewish territory was unwise. For a Samaritan to help a Jew was most unusual. And for a Samaritan to enter into a Jewish inn was risky business. And so this Good Samaritan actually risked his life in order to care for this beaten and bruised victim of the robbery.

You know, there is a verse of scripture that I think of when I think of the good Samaritan, and when I think of Gregory Mullinax and Harvey Adams and Robert Ingram and Chris Fields. The verse is found in John 15:13 and it says, "Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

You know, that's what Jesus did. He gave up his life for us. In fact, I'm reminded of that verse of scripture over in John 11 where Caiaphas was cowering before imperial Rome. He was afraid that Rome was going to wipe Palestine off the face of the earth. And Caiaphas, in his perverted thinking, reasoned that if Jesus was executed it might appease the wrath of the Roman Empire. In John 11:50 Caiaphas said, "Is it not expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” He thought Jesus should die in order to spare the nation.

Well, of course, that did not happen. But something far grander happened than that. Jesus died for the whole world. He became the ultimate giver. He gave his life, not just for one person or one family or one nation, but he gave his life for the whole world.

In a vision Martin Luther seemed to see Satan approaching him with a large book under his arm. As Satan approached him, he said, “This book contains the record of all of the sins of your life.”

Satan opened the book and began to read. But Martin Luther said, “Stop, stop. Here is another Book—the Word of God. It says the blood of Jesus Christ…cleanseth us from all sin.” And, dear friend that is exactly what the blood of Jesus Christ can do for you. He gave his life to rescue you. He gave his life to redeem you. He gave his life to save you. And because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, you can be redeemed.


Let me conclude with this true story. It's about an expert swimmer who actually taught men and women to swim and dive on the university level. One night he could not sleep. He decided to go to the university swimming pool and have a swim, hoping that the exercise would induce sleep. He said, "I didn't put the lights on. I knew every inch of the place and the roof was made of glass. The moon shone through, throwing the shadow of my body on the wall at the other end of the pool. I started to dive. My body and arms made a perfect sign of the cross. I cannot explain why I did not dive at that moment. I had no premonition of danger of any kind. As I stood looking at the shadow of the cross, I began to think of the cross of Christ and its meaning. I was not a Christian. I found myself repeating the words of a hymn I had learned as a boy 'He Died That I Might Be Forgiven.'

"I cannot tell you how long I stood poised on the diving board or why I did not dive. I came down from the diving board and walked along the pool to the steps that I knew led to the bottom of the pool and began to descend. I reached the bottom and my feet touched the cold, smooth bottom of the pool.

"The night before the caretaker had drained the pool dry and I knew nothing about it. I realized then that had I dived, I would have dived to my death. The cross on the wall saved me that night. I was so thankful to God for his mercy in sparing my life that I knelt on the cold tile at the bottom of the pool and asked the Christ of the cross to save my soul. I experienced a two-fold deliverance that night. I was saved from death and I was saved from hell."

People in military service might be able to save us from death. Fire fighters might be able to save us from death. Law enforcement officers might be able to save us from death. Rescue workers might be able to save us from death. But only Jesus Christ can save us from hell and save us to heaven and save us for all eternity. Amen

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