Monday Morning Millennial Star Question #6: Indigent Hitchhikers

Are Mormons morally obligated to pick up stranded motorists and indigent hitchhikers, or may we justifiably “pass by on the other side,” like the priest and Levite did in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Are the priest and Levite excused if they neglected him that fell among thieves for fear of their own safety? For which neighbors must we “Go, and do thou likewise”?

51 thoughts on “Monday Morning Millennial Star Question #6: Indigent Hitchhikers

  1. Hey. It’s only Sunday night!

    As for such scenarios, I think it depends. I’ve picked up such people, but I think in this day and age it is much wiser to call the police to come help them.

  2. Right after my son died, I picked up hitchhikers all the time, I even picked up people, especially young boys, who weren’t hitchhiking. It drove my husband crazy, but I was obsessed.

    I never picked anybody up if I had my kids in the car. Now I am a little more careful, I still never pick up anybody or stop if my kids or grandkids are in the car, but I will stop.

    The question was are we as Mormons more obligated. I don’t think we should be any more obligated than the next guy. That being said: I think we all should reach out and help each other more. Meet somebody’s eye when we walk down the hall. I watch for that. So many people are just wrapped up in themselves.

    I agree with Geoff, though, it’s a different world, but I wish it wasn’t. My mother took me hitchhiking with her when I was four years old. I was absolutely terrified and so grateful to the people who picked us up and drove us the 300 miles to my grandparent’s home. Nowadays, it’s very risky.

  3. I wouldn’t feel morally obligated to stop and give a healthy stranger a ride. I have zero tolerance for the potential risk.

  4. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age when it represents a considerable danger. And so, we are not morally obligated to do so.

    Times change. Missionaries used to go without purse or scrip. Now they no longer do so. There was a time when the Prophet could walk down the streets of Salt Lake City and no one would have thought of causing him harm. Today, that is no longer true.

  5. What is so special about our era? Was murder invented in our lifetime? When security concerns impede service, it is time to arm and become more useful.

    The only time I felt threatened by a hitchhiker was also the time that the stranger appeared most in need. It was a snowy night driving north up the hill out of Santa Fe where I picked up a drunk Indian headed to San Ildefonso Pueblo. He was a big man, and he said some things that concerned me. I reached under the seat for the toolbox I usually kept there, so I could have a wrench in hand if needed. The toolbox wasn’t there though, so the best I could do was take off my gloves (it was a cold night) to at least avail myself of bare knuckles. In the end, I dropped him off without incident.

    Backpackers have been the most fun to pick up, the guys who have just stepped onto the highway after a few days hiking.

  6. “in this day and age”
    “it’s a different world”
    “times change”

    You guys make it sound like crime and violence were invented in the past 20 years. The world at the time of Jesus was far more violent than any North American city is now, and Christ specifically set his hypothetical in a dangerous setting — the stranger had been beaten by thieves on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and left “half dead.” I don’t see how the parable can be distinguished from our day on account of our society having people that might do us harm.

    Soyde, the ancient prophets were all threatened and scores were killed, including a majority of the original apostles, and Joseph Smith and Parley P. Pratt.

  7. John beat me to the punch. It was good to meet you at the bloggernacle party, John, and good to know a fellow Marylander might pass by should I be in need of assistance!

  8. As an occasional hitch-hiker myself, I used to pick people up in England all the time. You meet some interesting people. But having grown up on a diet of American movies, I have been given the impression that any American asking for a ride is a serial killer in waiting. So I don’t do it here. More’s the shame.

    Of course, Matt picked up a stranger on Friday. Thanks Matt!

  9. I agree with Matt and John. I get very tired of the whole “the world is so much more dangerous now” thing. It might be more dangerous in some ways, but it’s also probably less dangerous in other ways. Those who make the claim seldom present any evidence to back it up. I’m reminded of people who are petrified of even setting foot in a “bad” neighborhood, despite the fact that many people live their whole lives there!

    It does seem to me, however, that our tolerance for risk has gone down. I wonder why?

  10. Edmonton writer Colby Cosh had some ruminations in the National Post on how Canada handled the Spanish flu and it will handle the next big flu epidemic. Here’s the last paragraph:

    Our one true weakness may be a general unfamiliarity with large-scale infectious disease — our lifelong experience of medicine as virtually omnipotent. Our post-Victorian forebears could be killed anytime by an ear infection or an inflamed scratch; they possessed few illusions about death. And yet they were almost unnervingly cheerful in the face of pestilence. In Edmonton, one November 1918 flu circular from the authorities concluded with the words “Keep smiling.” Even after four years of wartime slaughter and austerity — years endured only to be punctuated by global disease — no one thought this cretinous or trivial. The recriminations and carping that accompanied SARS, which took only 800 lives worldwide, suggest we may not bear up nearly so well if Big Flu really does emerge.
    http://www.colbycosh.com/archives.html#sfen

  11. I really don’t have a problem with helping people on the side of the road, but there are a few things to be taken into consideration:

    1. As far as I’m aware, hitchhiking is illegal
    2. If the spirit prompts you that there is potential danger (this has happened to me before)
    3. If you cannot afford it

    I usually try to help people out, but most of the time they’ve already been helped, don’t want my help, or there’s no help I can really offer them since I know nada about cars, and don’t have a cell phone.

  12. Aaron, good common sense. I think hitchhiking is legal, I mean, we see them all the time here off the I-15.

    But I do think the world is a more dangerous place than it used to be. I lived in Long Beach as a girl, with little parental supervision. We used to run all over town all hours of the night, just playing, skateboarding, not anything illegal or even mischievous, just having fun. Halloween we went everywhere till midnight. You could never do that today.

    I never worried about my kids being abducted until Arthur Bishop took all those kids. Then I got absolutely paranoid.

    Where my kids are involved, I’m super careful, but I can’t not reach out if I see a need. Not because I’m a Mormon, because I’m human.

    I’m going to step out on a limb here and tell you that I do think we (Mormons) are protected to a greater degree. In some way I can’t quite articulate. Not to be stupid, but in order to serve the world.

  13. I guess I got Clark and Geoff mixed up. Sorry, a personal failing.

  14. I commute through our local Indian Reservation, and usually stop to pick up hitch hikers (well when my car isn’t full of books or climbing and kayaking gear). I don’t pick everyone up, but think it is a good bit of service for people who choose to spend their money on things other than cars. Usually members around here get a bad rap because they talk about doing good things, but come across as only doing so in insular ways.

    Sure I have had a few drunk people that I have picked up, but usually everyone is very respectable, and corteous. While not always true, people who get treated with respect usually recipricate.

    Now if I can just figure out how to get picked up in my kayaking gear, it would save having to drive two cars 1000km every weekend just to do the shuttle.

  15. From Wikipedia:

    Hitchhiking is forbidden in some areas, such as near prisons. In some cases, a local government may ban it altogether. Certain US states have created conditional bans, such as Utah, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada; it is frequently illegal on the actual shoulder of Interstate highways, but usually not from the highway on-ramp

  16. Last year the Mrs. and I were driving up to the badlands in SD. We noticed a guy sitting near the exit on the interstate. He was resting against his duffle bag and had a sign with some city’s name on it. His eyes looked up over whatever he was ready and flagged passing motorists with his thumb waiting for someone to stop.

    I prefaced my comment with the admission that it’t not a very christian thing to mock someone in need, but I couldn’t help but see the parallel in the plan of salvation.

    Christ doesn’t just pick us up as we are slacking on the side of the road. He helps us get to where we are going after all we can do. We might have been more impressed to pick this stranger up if he had been excerting any effort to get to his destination on his own, but without that much effort on his part we thought not to.

  17. Just one question. Why do we assume that the ones who passed by in the parable did so due to fear for their own safety? If you read the parable, the Samaritan who stops is noted for stopping because “he had compassion on him”, I assume from the construction of the tale that the reason for the others passing by was not their fear for their own safety but their lack of compassion. There is a difference.

    And if you, dear brother, pick up a violent hitchhiker who murders you and leaves your wife and five little kids without a dad I might be pretty upset at your lack of concern and compassion for their well being when you took the risk.

    Just a thought.

  18. hitchikers half dead victim of violent crime

    Picking up random people and helping out injured victims are two totally different things. Passing by a hitchiker is nothing like being the priest or levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

    That parable has religious context that is not obvious. The priest and levite are avoiding the man who is explicitly labeled “half dead” because of fears of ritual impurity. They are so hypoctritical in their religion that desire for ritual purity precludes living the essence of the Law, which is to love God and their neighbor. They refuse to help the man because they fear being made ritually impure.

    Then along comes the Samaritan, who is ritually impure from birth as far as the biggoted Pharisees are concerned, and he does observe the essence of the Law by helping the man who was “half dead”.

    Passing up a hitchiker is simple common sense. Passing up someone who is the victim of violent crime is callous to the extreme.

  19. Dang it, the thing stripped out my “does not equals” sign. I had two inverted pointy brackets between “hitchikers” and “half dead victim of violent crime”.

    Lets try this:

    hitchikers =! half dead victim of violent crime

  20. Yeah, I thought that was just something else I didn’t get :).

    I think there’s been a couple of books written by guys who hitchhiked across America, one is Following the Wrong God Home, I forgot the author’ name, but he sort of stuck it to the LDS church, while he tried to copy the trek west on foot. It’s actually an interesting book. But I wonder if the perspective on those who picked him up is a little skewed because only crazy people pick up hitchhikers.

    Did Bill Bryson hitchhike? You could pass up that lazy hitchhiker sunning himself and miss getting written up in a famous book.

  21. Mary, I’d rather die trying to help someone than live a long life ignoring my neighbors’ needs because there’s a remote chance they’ll hurt me. There are many ways to live that are more repulsive than death. That’s something I’m trying to teach my children by example; even in death.

    Kurt, the point of the story is to show that only one of the three were “neighborly,” anything else people read into it is unnecessary to Christ’s answering the query “And who is my neighbor?” We can strip the ancillary language, for example, and reduce it to, “Person X needed help. Persons A and B see Person X and avoid him. Person C sees Person X and helps him.” That’s all that’s necessary to ask the question, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto Person X?”

  22. annegb: “I lived in Long Beach as a girl, with little parental supervision. We used to run all over town all hours of the night, just playing, skateboarding, not anything illegal or even mischievous, just having fun. Halloween we went everywhere till midnight. You could never do that today.”

    I hear this kind of thing a all the time, but I’m not sure I understand it. Why could you “never do that today?”

    I agree that most middle-class parents would no longer let their kids do some of those things, and I’m not saying I’m going to let my kids do them. But what evidence do you have that it is more dangerous than it used to be? I expect it’s less dangerous than at some times in the past. (Or maybe it’s more dangerous because all the other parents are keeping THEIR kids indoors, so it’s a coordination problem!)

  23. Hmmm…I think it’s more dangerous. We went back to the old neighborhood in Long Beach about 8 years ago and my husband didn’t want to stop, let alone let me take pictures. They were pretty scary neighborhoods now. I don’t think kids would be safe running all over Long Beach at all hours of the night now. That’s why.

    I’m not even sure kids would be safe running all over my neighborhood at night.

    Hard evidence? None. So let your kids run all over Long Beach, I wouldn’t.

  24. Then again, I wouldn’t have let them run all over in 1965, either.

    I’d probably die if I knew what my kids did secretly in the middle of the night.

    I still feel more nervous and careful than I did years ago. Heck, the hitchhikers are in as much danger as the ones who might pick them up. We’re all a pretty violent crew. Nope, no statistics for that, either.

  25. Anne, to provide one example, my parents let us run and bike all over Salt Lake with minimal supervision during and after the Arther Gary Bishop episode. Bishop wasn’t the only wacko, no doubt, but I don’t know of anyone — or even of anyone who knew anyone — who was kidnapped or hurt or killed because their parents let them bike with abandon.

    Ed, I think one of the reasons people are more risk averse today is partly that people suffer from the availability heuristic, made worse by mass media, and because of the kinds of social pressure Mary exerted in comment 17. When I’ve teased people for being paranoid and get them to explain their motivations, they nearly always (1) overestimate the risk (the availability heuristic) and (2) suggest that they are worried about other people’s opinions of their parenting.

  26. Kaimi, I had the same thought. Despite my expressed refusal to pick up potential serial killers, I hitchhiked once or twice during the mission in Guatemala. Bus strikes were pretty common when I was there and sometimes there was no other way to get around.

    During one bus strike my companion and I were hoofin’ it somewhere. Absent-mindedly I began to whistle the tune to “pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked …” After a few seconds my comp whirled around and told me to “Shut Up!” We both laughed. Total coincidence that I picked that tune too … it was just random.

  27. I’ve thought about it good and hard and I’ve revised my formerly hypocritical policy. In the case of LDS missionaries hitchhiking, I’d pick them up.

  28. I almost always pick up hitch-hikers [heck, I even let two sleep in my apartment]; and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t stop for a stranded motorist.

    On the otherhand…my wife thinks I’m nutz.

    sum: Some Mormons think you are obligated (I do); other’s don’t.

  29. In fact, jalon (hitchhiking) was often a good way to contact people.

    And in at least one town, we didn’t get thrown out of town by an angry mob at least in part because the town mayor once gave us a jalon and chatted with us for a while, and he knew us and liked us. And so he calmed down the people who had been riled up by the local preachers. (It also helped that we had, contra mission rules, spent one morning showing the local kids how to play American football. That made us some friends that we needed, later down the line).

  30. Crime wasn’t invented in the last 20 years, but you’re dreaming if you don’t think the world has gotten more dangerous. Doors have to be locked that didn’t have to be in times past.

    The Good Samaritan is very different than pulling over to pick up a hitchhiker, or someone with a (seemingly) broken-down car. It’s more like seeing an accident, or someone bleeding in their crushed car. I wouldn’t hesitate to pull over to help someone in such obvious need of immediate medical attention.

    But if I just see a man standing by a car at the side of the road, I have no idea how he got there. The Good Samaritan wasn’t in any danger of being robbed, beaten, and killed by the man he helped. I also don’t think Christ was commanding us to attempt to help others regardless of the risk to life and limb of ourselves or our families.

  31. A friend of mine, a BYU student, stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. As soon as the hitchhiker opened the door to the car he shot my friend in the stomach, took his wallet and pushed him out of the car onto the road and then drove away leaving him for dead. My friend luckily was picked up by someone who saw him lying in the road and he lived. But after numerous surgeries he finally died last year. I won’t be picking up any hitchhiker’s anytime soon. I think you can be charitable without taking unnecessary risks.

  32. That’s really sad, Trenden. I think things like us do change us profoundly.

    My young neighbor was injured badly because she didn’t wear a seat belt, my kids always wore theirs after that without being told.

    I will be thinking of that story when I drive by hitchhikers now.

  33. Matt: I’d thought about the availability heuristic…but I’m not sure. Mass media has been around for a long time. Ever hear of the Lindberg Baby? But as far as your point about social pressure, you may be on to something.

    annegb: If you are talking about your specific neighborhood (Long Beach) then I have no quarrel with you. Some neighborhoods do get more dangerous over time (and others less so, and there are always new neighborhoods.)

    Jonathan: “Crime wasn’t invented in the last 20 years, but you’re dreaming if you don’t think the world has gotten more dangerous. Doors have to be locked that didn’t have to be in times past.”

    Here we go again. Why do the doors suddenly need to be locked? Are you aware that crime in the United States has declined significantly in the past 20 years, and burglary specifically has declined by an especially large amount? Between 1973 and 2003 household burglary rates in the United states went down by more than two thirds! (Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics victimization survey. Here’s a link:)
    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cv03.pdf

    Personally, I think it is actually a little bit immoral to be too cautious. For example, if I walk the streets at night, I make it safer for everybody. If most people selfishly stay indoors, then it probably will be somewhat more dangerous. I don’t pick up hitchhikers, but maybe I should.

  34. Trenden, I’m terribly sorry to hear about your friend. Was he able to express an opinion about his trying to help, in retrospect? I think you raise a good question about unnecessary risks, but that is, to me, the initial question rephrased. To what degree should we avoid doing good for fear of possibly losing our life, for Christ’s sake?

    Jonathan, how would the Good Samaritan know that the fallen traveller was harmless, and not merely pretending to be in need, like the man who shot Trenden’s friend? By the way, I know of several families in large cities that seldom lock their doors, and the doors on our minivan are almost never locked, even though we have street parking. One time someone stole a Target shopping bag from our van, getting $20 worth of clearance kids clothes and a no-stick pan.

  35. ed: “Personally, I think it is actually a little bit immoral to be too cautious. For example, if I walk the streets at night, I make it safer for everybody. If most people selfishly stay indoors, then it probably will be somewhat more dangerous. I don’t pick up hitchhikers, but maybe I should.” –maybe this is because you are male.

    I get so frustrated with the ignorant righteous! You live clean lives, and don’t go into scary places, therefore you assume that things are not as bad as the media can portray them. You’re not there, or involved in it, so you don’t know how truly evil parts of the world/society is. Maybe you think you’re aware of it, but until it affects you personally, you have no real idea.

    One example: pornography, which is rampant in today’s society and becoming a serious problem even within the church was not as easily and freely accesible twenty years ago. Pornography is more addictive than drugs and creates sex-addicts who gradually become more and more compelled to “act out” darker and more twisted things like pretending to have a broken-down car on the side of the road to rape you. Go sit in on your local SAA meeting, then tell me that the world is not a more violent, criminal place–in many ways that may not even be apparent on the surface. I may be wrong, but I don’t think they had as serious of a problem with sex-related crimes two thousand years ago.

    Let’s make this question gender specific, would you feel comfortable having your young beautiful wife stopping to help a man with a broken-down car? Why or why not? I think that above all you should follow the Spirit. As a rule, I would not stop unless I felt prompted.

  36. Ed, I think that if we asked people to rank the relative risks of certain activities, we’d find their beliefs to more closely reflect the publicity of various harms than their actual probabilities. (One factor in the availability heuristic.) From what I’ve heard of Steven Levitt’s book Freakonomics, he delights in showing how Americans have misplaced their fears. As for the Lindberg kidnapping, it may have been newsworthy primarily because it was the baby of the most famous man in America — whereas now the mass media gives round-the-clock coverage to kidnappings from every social class, making people fear that the next kidnapped baby will be from a normal family like theirs.

  37. The parable of the Good Samaritan is not a text designed to explain whether a person should pick up a hitchhiker. It’s a text that teaches us to reach out and help the person who has obviously been injured and is lying in the street in need of help.

    Here’s the scriptural text I would resort to in developing a policy about picking up hitchhikers:

    Luke 12:39
    And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.

    My view is that Christ expects us to protect ourselves against predictable and potential threats. It’s ten times easier to lock out an aggressor (or a potential aggressor) than it is to deal with him once he’s already in the house or the car. Of course many attacks can’t be prevented. But it’s hard to feel total sympathy for someone who carelessly leaves themselves vulnerable. If someone wants to leave house or car doors unlocked, that’s their business. But I don’t consider it a sign of virtue or an inspirational expression of faith.

  38. Danithew, Christ used the Good Samaritan parable to answer a question about who is our neighbor. As I wrote to Kurt, the parable can be reduced to, “Person X needed help. Persons A and B saw Person X and avoided him. Person C saw Person X and helped him. Which one of these three, thinkest thou Danithew, was neighbor unto Person X?”

    I don’t see reason to believe that hitchhiking harms are predictable (one in a million isn’t predictable), and it can’t be right that Christ wants us to protect ourselves against all potential threats. No doubt someone, somewhere, has been violently injured by one of their home teachees, but that doesn’t mean Christ wants us to stop home teaching because of the potential risk they’ll harm us when we knock on their door. And even though scouts die on camp outings every year, and no scout has ever been killed on a scout trip they didn’t go on, we still send scouts on overnighters despite the potential danger. We also feed children grapes, even though several of them will choke on them and die this summer. How many lives should we sacrifice for grapes?!

  39. Danithew: I think you got the first part right; i.e. it is about reaching out & helping people. As for Luke 12:39, perhaps the Good Mormon should simply be caring a firearm when (s)he picks up the hitchhiker.

    On a sidenote…The movie is hilarious. I’m posting a Mormon perspective on the morrow…I’m still laughing.

  40. Matt, forgive me for continuing to reason a little. My earlier tone was too sharp and I probably need to dull that edge a little. Also, I’ve argued with you over stem-cells and I still feel bad about some of the rhetoric and tone I used.

    I’m going to pull out the passage from Luke because I think its helpful. I’m not even sure this will really disprove your point. People can argue all day about some things, so I hope you won’t hold it against me. To me personally (in _my_ interpretation) this parable needs to be examined for its nuances before it gets applied to picking up hitchhikers.

    Luke 10:30-33
    30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
    31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
    32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
    33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

    To me Matt, the “half dead” part is a significant nuance to this story. This isn’t merely someone who needs casual help or a lift somewhere. This is a man who is in dire need of immediate emergency medical attention. It sounds to me like the man is in such bad shape that if he doesn’t get assistance, he might die.

    That is the problem I have with the application of this scripture to hitchhiking. The needs being talked about are so different in scale that I don’t think the analogy really works. Passing by a hitchhiker might be a wise decision. Under normal circumstances the worst thing that could mean is that the person has to wait a little longer for someone else to come along. The level of obligation is really quite minimal. On the other hand, passing by a person who is potentially dying and deliberately ignoring him or her is a crime.

  41. Perhaps I should add that I’ve been reading quite a bit about qiyas or the use of analogy in Islamic law and jurisprudence, so I’m a bit too charged right now on the whole issue of analogy as a tool in scriptural interpretation. Feel free to smack me right down or ignore me.

  42. Danithew, don’t worry, I haven’t been offended, and wasn’t offended in the stem-cell thread, either. I have no right to complain about other people’s tone!

    I agree that the needs of an indigent hitchhiker are not equivalent to the scenario in the Good Samaritan, but that’s why I argued that the specific scenario wasn’t a necessary part of Christ’s story. The answer to the question, “Who was neighborly to the indigent hitchhiker?” is the person who picks him up.

    And I should point out that if it’s wise to pass by an indigent hitchhiker, we shouldn’t assume that someone will eventually be foolish enough to pick him up. Because we must treat our neighbors as ourselves, we should see both the hitchhiker, AND the person who might eventually pick him up, as ourselves. It seems immoral to transfer the potential risks, whatever they are, to our neighbors.

  43. Matt: I agree that people are ill-informed and perhaps irrational about risk. You might be right about media being part of the problem…for example, a couple of summers ago everyone was suddenly worried about shark attacks, even though the actual number of attacks was not unusual. Another good example is Halloween candy–I’ve read that there are no actual documented cases of poisoned Halloween candy, but it seems to be a common fear.

    But I have the impression that people are just more risk averse than they used to be, especially for their children. Some of this is quite sensible…wearing seatbelts makes sense, and riding in the back of a pickup (like I did) really is dangerous. Automobiles are by far the most dangerous thing we deal with, but most people spend more time worrying about lots of other things. I think the risk of abduction by strangers is greatly exagerated.

    Back to the topic at hand…I wonder how dangerous it really is to pick up a hitchhiker? Trenden’s story is certainly horrible enough to make me think twice. I agree, though, that charity requires that we be willing to at least accept a little danger in order to serve others.

  44. Matt Evans,

    In principle, as a matter of interpreting the meaning of the text, I disagree with your reading. You are drawing the text too far out of it’s context in an effort to make your point. The question which prompted the parable being discussed was asked by someone who professionally nit-picked the Law of Moses and who was eager to falsely justify himself:

    25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

    The context affected Jesus’ comments. Hence Jesus’ selection of a priest, a levite, and a Samaritan. He didnt pick three innocuous random Gentiles.

    Now, the point you are trying to make is a legitimate one, namely “Ought we not to help people?” And the answer is “Yes”. However, this parable only partially deals with that subject, and doesnt necessarily support the point you are trying to make. Nowhere in the Scriptures does it say would should foolishly place ourselves at risk in order to assist anyone with an outstretched hand, never questioning their motives. The Scriptures consistently counsel us to exercise wisdom and prudence, giving someone a leg up, rather than a hand out, whenever possible.

    Picking up hitchikers is not the same as assisting victims of violent crime.

  45. I’d like to clarify my earlier statement where I said I wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker based on my friend’s terrible experience. Actually, it wasn’t too long ago that I picked up a woman with an infant in her arms. I guess she could have shot me but I just didn’t see her as a risk so I gave her a ride. I think she was far more nervous of me than I was of her. I’ve also helped a family that was stranded when their car broke down. I didn’t really consider them hitchhikers though, just a family in need. So, I think you have to assess each situation and use your best judgment and also live in such a way as to be sensitive to promptings, both to help and promptings of warning.

  46. Kurt: So, what distressed motorists?

    Trenden: Could point. Although, if you were in Iraq, perhaps you wouldn’t have picked up that mother. These days, you never know when a mother or even a child isn’t being used as a suicide bomber. Point: Situation, geography & context certainly play a role in the relative risk involved in helping a brother or sister in need.

  47. Matt wrote: Because we must treat our neighbors as ourselves, we should see both the hitchhiker, AND the person who might eventually pick him up, as ourselves.

    Interesting counterpoint but I think it might lead us to some really goofy reasoning.

    1) It is wrong to leave behind a potential serial killer for someone else to pick up. 2) I don’t want to pick this guy up.
    3) I don’t want the next driver to pick him up either.

    What am I supposed to do when faced with this moral conundrum?

    Thinking about this tempts me to start saying really absurd things. I think at that point it becomes an issue of stewardship. I’m responsible for myself, my family, my car, my house, etc. There is simply no way I can take on the responsibility of obviating another person’s decision to pick up a hitchhiker.

  48. lyle,

    I think one should exercise good judgement in rendering reasonable assistance to any who appears to be in genuine need, roadside or not. A woman with a flat tire would probably be a safe bet. A panhandler at a stop light is probably not someone I would throw a buck at, especially if the seat of his jeans was clean. If I had a pickup truck, I’d probably let a hitchiker ride in the back, but not in the front. If you want to draw the line somewhere else then knock yourself out…I just hope someone else doesnt knock you out.

  49. Kurt, I’m glad you brought up the pickup example … because that was something that occurred to me as well. Letting someone jump into the back of the truck is different than having them right there inside the car with you.

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