Wang Yue had been hit by a van then a truck and left to die on a busy street in Foshan, China. For seven minutes, the 2-year-old girl lay helpless. In those seven minutes, 18 people chose to completely ignore her. A few were even careful to avoid stepping into her blood. Wang Yue was eventually picked up and taken to a hospital, but it was too late. She died at 2 years old partly because no one cared to save her life.
Wang Yue is not alone. Every day people choose to turn the other way rather than help. This is a phenomenon psychologists refer to as the “bystander effect.” Essentially, if there are more people around, individuals are less likely to intervene to help someone.
This is human nature. Carnally we would rather turn the other way than help someone out. We’ll reason: Why should I inconvenience myself? It’s probably their fault for getting into trouble. But it should not be that way. In fact, God made it a law that if we are able to help save a life we must try to help.
It’s A Law
Proverbs 24:11-12 say, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” A similar point is made in Leviticus 19:16, which states, “you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor” (Revised Standard Version). This law obliges us to take action when we see someone in danger.
Some have believed that this is strictly about testifying in court when you see someone on trial for a crime punishable by death that you know the person is innocent of. Certainly this law would apply in an instance like that, but it is not limited to only that situation. It applies anytime we see someone else’s life in danger.
Maybe you see a baby carriage rolling down a hill. You must go and try to stop it. Or if you’re unable to run to it, yell for others to help. The point is, God expects some sort of action.
It is important to use wisdom, especially in this day and age. Do your best to avoid life-threatening situations; this law is not an excuse for stupidity. Do what you can safely do to help. There may even be situations where risking your own life would be appropriate. Stay close to God and pray for wisdom in these types of situations—and always pray for protection.
Why did God have to spell out this law? Because carnal man would not help others if he didn’t have to. We may think this is a problem unique to our day and age when men are without natural affection, but this is not a new problem. It has been around since the beginning of history because it is a part of our selfish human nature. In the parable of the good Samaritan, three men passed by the victim before anyone would help (Luke 10:25-37). The term bystander effect was actually coined back in 1964 when 38 people passed by a stabbing victim in New York City without stopping to help as she bled to death from her wounds.
Thou Shalt Help
This law is an ultra-positive command from God on how to love our neighbor. James 4:17 says that if we don’t do what we know to be good, it is sin. Inconveniencing yourself to help someone else is love. This law emphasizes the high value God places on human life. He does not want any unnecessary loss of life.
We should view the chance to keep this law as a wonderful opportunity to show love. Look at the biblical example of Esther. When Mordecai told her she needed to talk to the king to save the Jews from Haman, Esther was scared. Anyone who came before the king without invitation could be executed (Esther 4:11). But her uncle gave her some practical advice. He said God would save the Jews one way or another, but this was her chance to be the instrument of God in delivering His people (verse 14).
God doesn’t command that we be successful in saving others, but He does command that we act. If we do nothing, their blood is on our head. We must not just stand there if we can help.
It is the way of the world to do the bare minimum. God tasks us with going above and beyond to love our neighbor. Nothing short of all we can do will suffice. Let’s love our neighbor and be willing to intervene to save a life.