People
Fact-checked

At PublicPeople, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is a Good Samaritan?

A Good Samaritan is someone who selflessly assists others in need, often going out of their way to provide aid without expecting anything in return. This compassionate figure embodies altruism and kindness, reflecting the best of human nature. Have you ever encountered a moment that called for such selfless action? Join us as we explore the impact of these everyday heroes.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The term good Samaritan derives from the biblical passage in Luke 10:30/33 of the New Testament. It is a description of how a man who is attacked by thieves is helped by a Samaritan, who was not even a person of the Jewish faith. Several people ignore the man before the Samaritan helps. This suggests the inclusion of gentiles into Christianity, a religion that will embrace not only the Jews but also all who believe in the one God and who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Since that biblical passage, which is a parable told by Christ according to Luke, a good Samaritan has come to mean any person who helps another without thought for reward. A person performing the Heimlich maneuver, for example, to save someone from choking to death could be described using this term. A person who risks her own life to save someone from a burning house or car is also a good Samaritan.

The term good Samaritan derives from a biblical passage in Luke.
The term good Samaritan derives from a biblical passage in Luke.

In most cases, the term does not apply to people paid to perform such acts. For example a doctor performing CPR at a hospital is not a good Samaritan, since he or she is paid to do so. A fireman who rushes into a burning building is heroic, but is also doing his job.

Some people disagree with this distinction, however, particularly in the second example. A fireman is risking his life every time he attempts to save someone under dangerous circumstances. Thus some would consider him or her a good Samaritan even though he or she might be paid for such risk.

A person who saves a stranger from choking would be referred to as a good samaritan.
A person who saves a stranger from choking would be referred to as a good samaritan.

For a time, people became somewhat leery of helping others in fear of getting sued by those they attempted to rescue. Especially in the US, for a while, a person who tried to help others was not always protected by the law, and this discouraged people from stepping in to help in a time of need. If a person performed CPR and cracked someone’s rib, for example, he could be sued even if he saved the person’s life. There are now good Samaritan laws in place in most places to protect people from lawsuits when they attempt to save or render help to a person in need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is considered a Good Samaritan?

Many states have Good Samaritan lawsuits that protect people from lawsuits when they attempt to save a person's life.
Many states have Good Samaritan lawsuits that protect people from lawsuits when they attempt to save a person's life.

A Good Samaritan is an individual who provides assistance, often of an emergency nature, to a person in need, typically a stranger. This help is given without the expectation of reward or recognition. The term originates from a parable in the Christian Bible, where a Samaritan helps a traveler who has been beaten and left on the side of the road, exemplifying compassion and altruism.

What legal protections do Good Samaritans have?

A good samaritan might help a family living in poverty.
A good samaritan might help a family living in poverty.

In many jurisdictions, Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or whom they believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated. The protection is intended to reduce bystanders' hesitation to assist for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death. An example is the Good Samaritan Law in California, codified in California Health and Safety Code Section 1799.102.

How does the concept of a Good Samaritan vary across cultures?

Those who lack training could cause harm if they attempt to administer CPR.
Those who lack training could cause harm if they attempt to administer CPR.

The concept of a Good Samaritan has parallels in many cultures, often tied to broader ethical principles of compassion and charity. For instance, the Islamic tradition has the notion of "Neki Kar Dariya Mein Daal" which means "do good and throw it in the river," implying that good deeds should be done selflessly. Similarly, in Hinduism, the concept of "Seva" or selfless service is a core tenet. These cultural variations underscore a universal human value of helping others in distress.

Are there any notable historical examples of Good Samaritans?

The meaning of a good Samaritan has its roots in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The meaning of a good Samaritan has its roots in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Throughout history, there have been many instances of individuals acting as Good Samaritans. One notable example is Harriet Tubman, who risked her life to lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Another is Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. These individuals acted selflessly, often at great personal risk, to aid others in dire circumstances.

What impact do Good Samaritan acts have on society?

Acts of Good Samaritans can have profound impacts on society by fostering a culture of empathy and community support. According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, witnessing acts of kindness can cause an uplifting emotional response that researchers call "moral elevation." This can lead to a ripple effect, inspiring others to perform their own acts of kindness and thereby strengthening social bonds and trust within communities.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PublicPeople contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent PublicPeople contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

anon958089

A Good Samaritan can be any benevolent person believing in the Biblical description of a good Samaritan. I think it is time to integrate!

anon324819

The whole point of the Good Samaritan parable was to point out to the "religious nut" who our neighbor really is. The scribe or Lawyer had asked, "who is my neighbor" after paraphrasing Leviticus 19:18, "love your neighbor as yourself". Jesus' response to the Lawyer's question actually answers two questions.

The first answer is that God loves everyone, but prefers "fruits of the spirit" over "religious nuts"! The second answer is everyone is our neighbor, regardless of color, creed, national origin, sex or religious preference. Whether our neighbor is hard to love, has hurt us in some way, is grouchy, arrogant or even evil, Jesus’ instruction in the parable to the religious nut is for us too – “Go and do the same.”

BostonIrish

@Renegade

The reason this parable was so counter-cultural was also because the Samaritan obviously had nothing to gain from the injured man on the side of the road. If he had been Jewish or an acquaintance, that would be understandable: he would have gained an ally and perhaps monetary help in the long run. But the fact that these two never would have normally interacted shows what a kind heart this Samaritan had, truly giving of himself without expectation of return.

Renegade

The good samaritan parable was told to emphasize the fact that Jesus was reaching out to the outcasts of his society and recognized their value. Samaritans were viewed with much hatred by the Jewish people of the day, and therefore this parable was very controversial at the time. Today, in our society, the application should be made toward people who may be viewed as societal outcasts. Love, forgiveness, acceptance, and tolerance, are all important morals which have come as a result of parables like this.

serious

Our faith in Jesus Christ produces "good works".

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • The term good Samaritan derives from a biblical passage in Luke.
      By: dpyancy
      The term good Samaritan derives from a biblical passage in Luke.
    • A person who saves a stranger from choking would be referred to as a good samaritan.
      By: nebari
      A person who saves a stranger from choking would be referred to as a good samaritan.
    • Many states have Good Samaritan lawsuits that protect people from lawsuits when they attempt to save a person's life.
      By: imageegami
      Many states have Good Samaritan lawsuits that protect people from lawsuits when they attempt to save a person's life.
    • A good samaritan might help a family living in poverty.
      By: Halfpoint
      A good samaritan might help a family living in poverty.
    • Those who lack training could cause harm if they attempt to administer CPR.
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Those who lack training could cause harm if they attempt to administer CPR.
    • The meaning of a good Samaritan has its roots in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
      By: GG Pro Photo
      The meaning of a good Samaritan has its roots in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ.