“I’ll tell you what. That good-for-nothing, no account son-in-law of mine will never amount to a hill of beans. Why, he is so lazy I don’t see how he ever gets anything done. I will never understand what my daughter sees in him…lays around on the couch watching football, eating chips like they were going out of style, and clicking that dang remote like he’s the only one in the room. He just turns my stomach.”

“In all of my years of teaching I have never known a child who was more worthless, less motivated, and as useless as that child. He could mess up a mess. He never gets to class on time and when he’s here he is somewhere else. It’s no wonder he’s such a louse, have you ever met his parents? They came to a parent-teacher conference looking like something the cat drug in. I swear his dad’s hair had more oil in it than any Ford truck in town. I guess his mom thinks she is still in high school with her short little dress and jewelry draped off of her like a Christmas tree. That boy will never amount to anything!”

“Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not prejudiced. I just think we ought to stick with our own kind. It just goes to reason that if the mocking birds are good enough for the mocking birds and the sparrows find each others company comfortable, then we ought to be able to stick with our own. Why do folks keep trying to get me in situations where I have to try and get along with them? I put up with having to work with them, eat in restaurants with them, and have my kids to go to school with them, but now the government is trying to tell me that I’ve got to allow them to rent my little rent house if they want to move in. I don’t want those kind of folks living in the house that I worked hard to pay for – especially some good-for-nothing, low-life. What in God’s name is going on?”

“I saw it the first time I laid my eyes on that girl. She just looks like a little hussy. You can always spot those druggies you know. They just don’t have any morals. They’ll do anything to anybody just to get what they want. I don’t want those kind around my son. They dress like they got their clothes out of the hamper, they can’t comb their hair since they are always high, and you sure can’t trust them. She use to be a good little girl, she use to go to church and even sing in the choir, but now, she’s just a no account little harlot.”

Oh, wouldn’t we all be better off if we could just get rid of all of the no account, good-for-nothings that are simply taking up space on the planet?! You know the kind I’m talking about. They are the ones that will never amount to anything. They are the ones that are always causing all of the crime, all of the fear, all of the trouble that is being reported on the evening news. They are the ones causing the trouble in our schools and pillaging our neighborhoods. They are the ones harassing our homes and causing us to build more prisons to house their errant ways. The only purpose the no account, good-for-nothings serve is to give the t.v. news folks something to talk about at 6:00 and 10:00 pm.

Church folks know the no account, good-for-nothings. When they walk into the building you can spot them a mile away. I propose that we rig all of our churches with blaring sirens and circling lights to announce their arrival. When church folk here news of the antics of the anti-social they raise their eyebrows and click their tongues in disgust. When church folks see the good-for-nothings amble down the hallway they quickly stride to the other side. Church folk are good at coming up with their list of “Who’s Who” in the Good-For-Nothing, No Account Hall of Fame. They can recite their press clippings, intimately enunciate their devilish deeds, and then gaze with their sacrilegious sneer.

The Good-For-Nothing Hall of Fame wasn’t founded in our day. The cornerstone was laid long ago and the structure has been expanded throughout each new generation as millions and millions of folks have found themselves inducted in the Hall of Fame by those who concluded that they were good-for-nothing.

I was inducted more than thirty years ago at the annual meeting of the “Good-For-Nothing Annual Convocation.” They presented me with a plaque, read my seedy accomplishments, affirmed my no account status, and gave me a good-for-nothing ovation – standing by the way.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no pride ascribed nor assigned to those included in the Hall of Fame. Being an inductee will not put you in better standing in the community, erase your debt to society, nor get you a job. Being an inductee will bring continued stares, sneers, and setbacks. The only consolation to myself, and to the others inducted into the Hall of Fame, is that when we are in the community of the good-for-nothings things seem less desperate.

When I gather with my no account brothers and sisters there are no stares because we know that everyone there is good-for-nothing. There are no sneers because we know nobody present is as pure as the wind-driven snow. When we are out in public with the pure of heart and the unblemished of character – things just seem more difficult for us, criticism is more of a constant.

I’ve come here to preside over the local gathering of the Good-For-Nothing, No Account Society – Oklahoma Chapter. I see some of my no account, good-for-nothing brothers and sisters in attendance this morning. To all of my brothers and sisters who have taken time to gather here this morning I want to say, “Good morning.”

I bring Good News to us this year. Some things have changed, and sad to say, some things remain the same. Let’s attend to the bad news, same old same old items on our agenda first. It was another year of rising membership for the good-for-nothings. Men and women, boys and girls from every walk of life and every occupation are finding themselves joining our ranks. The sneers and snide remarks continue to cut deeply and come constantly at our members. We continue to get major, national press whenever we mess up. Our pictures are being paraded around on television, in magazines, and in newspapers all across the land. I hate to break it to you, but it’s the same song 4000th verse.

Now, before we conclude our meeting, let me share the Good News with you. There is a rumor going around that Someone has spoken up for us. Someone out there is standing with us in trying to have the Hall of Fame torn down so that we can get back to living once again. Someone, it is rumored, is forgiving our errant ways, handing out mercy like lollipops at a bank. The story being told is that there is a Man, who is more of a man than any man I have ever known. Who has never done anything to be inducted into our Society, but who has, of His own volition, decided to join our infamous Hall. This Man is not a robber, but He is a giver of every good and perfect gift. This Man is not a killer of human life, but the Creator of life and life everlasting. This Man is not a liar, but the embodiment of all Truth. This Man is not a condemner, but a forgiver of every wrong that has ever been wrought. This Man is on His way this very morning to bring the benediction and dismiss us with the forgiveness which only He can give. My brothers and sisters, I ask you to stick around for the conclusion of the final meeting of the Good-For-Nothing, No Account Society – Jesus is on His way!!

If you are one of those who have been told that you are good-for-nothing or if you have arrived at the conclusion that your life is of no account and that you’ll never amount to anything, I’ve got Good News for you. I’ve come to share with you this morning the Good-For-Nothing, No Account Gospel. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the Gospel I’ve come to share is good-for-nothing, but rather the Gospel I’ve come to share is specifically given by Almighty God for those whom society has deemed as good-for-nothing and of no account.

Our Scripture for today speaks so boldly for the heart of Almighty God and His incredible love for the no account, good-for-nothings of life. For us to fully understand the depth of God’s love we need to spend our time looking at what happened as the Church moved out of Jerusalem. Take a look at Acts 8:1-25.

And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. {2} Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. {3} But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. {4} Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. {5} Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. {6} When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. {7} With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. {8} So there was great joy in that city. {9} Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, {10} and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” {11} They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. {12} But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. {13} Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. {14} When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. {15} When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, {16} because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. {17} Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. {18} When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money {19} and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” {20} Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! {21} You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. {22} Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. {23} For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” {24} Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” {25} When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages. (Acts 8:1-25 NIV)

For us to really understand what is going on with Philip’s trip to Samaria we need a little background. The hatred felt by the Jews toward the Samaritan people dated back long before Philip ever entered the city. Back in the year 721 B.C. the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel whose capital was Samaria. Shalmaneser had begun the siege three years before, but then he died. His successor, Sargon, continued to pound Samaria until finally he captured the city. An inscription found in Sargon’s palace located in Khorsabad, near Nieveh, which was found by archeologist reads, “The city of Samaria I besieged, I took; 27,280 of its inhabitants I carried away; fifty chariots that were among them I collected.” Sargon transported the Samarians to his own country of Assyria where they took up life in their new land. To make things even worse, Esarhaddon, a later Assyrian king took some of the Assyrian people to repopulate the city of Samaria in 677 B.C. The people who had moved to Samaria took up life with the Jews and began to influence negatively. The Assyrians absorbed some of the Jewish religious practices into their own religious belief system. The Jews absorbed the practices into their own religious observances and as a result they gave up their strict adherence to Almighty God. They worshipped idols, inter-married with the Assyrian people, and forgot all about God’s call upon their lives.

Almost 150 years later, another foreign king rose up and attacked the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, moved in on Jerusalem and utterly destroyed the city, taking it’s citizens into captivity. The difference between the Jews in Samaria and the Jews in Jerusalem is that the Jerusalem Jews refused to accommodate their captors. They wouldn’t serve the king’s gods, no matter how high the price to be paid. You might remember the story of Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who were told by king Nebuchadnezzar to bow to the golden idol.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. {17} If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. {18} But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV)

For almost fifty years the Jews from Jerusalem were held captive in Babylon, but they never bowed. God honored their commitment and they were allowed to go back and rebuild their city. God raised up Nehemiah and Ezra to lead the people in rebuilding and restoring their city. It was a great day for the Jews from Jerusalem! They were excited. They could envision the new Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, restored to its former glory!

The Northern Jews, the backslidden brothers of the Jerusalem Jews, traveled south to offer their help in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, but they were told to go home. Their help was rejected because they were no longer “pure” Jews. They had compromised their faith, their heritage, their commitment to God. In the eyes of the Jerusalem Jews they were good-for-nothing, no account, worthless, carnal converts to idolatry.

By the time of Jesus, the deep divide separating Samaritan from “pure” Jew was more than five hundred years old. Every where the Samaritans went they were constantly reminded of how despicable and despised a people they truly were. The Southern Jews, the “pure” Jews, hatred for the Samaritans ran so deep that if they needed to make a trip north of Samaria they would go the long way around just so they wouldn’t have to step foot on Samaritan soil. The good “pure” Jewish men use to pray to God and thank Him that they were not “a Samaritan.”

Can you imagine the deep pain felt by the Samaritan people? Can you imagine how it hurt to be with your family in the presence of some pious Jew giving thanks that he was not like you? Something which was done centuries earlier was constantly being thrown in their face. Little children who had Assyrian blood running through their veins were condemned as good-for-nothing because of a marriage which their distant great-great grandfather had agreed to, not them. Families who loved God were mocked and alienated because their kin folks had bowed to false gods.

Can you imagine the pain inflicted on the Samaritan people by those who deemed them as no account, good-for-nothing folk? It kind of reminds you of some of us doesn’t it? At the Promise Keepers Conference last weekend the men heard Pastor Claus speak. Pastor Claus is a Native-American pastor who came out dressed in his full Native American head dress. He spoke of the pain of his people and at one point he said, “At one point my people owned 100% of the land, today we own 2.6%. At one time there 2.5 million Indians in America, but at the turn of the century there were less than 250,000. America signed 1000 treaties with my people and all but 40 were broken promises.

The pain of the Samaritan people resonates with our black brothers and sisters. Prejudice and discrimination have been constant companions. In 1775, there were 450,000 slaves below the Mason Dixon Line. March 1, 1875, when the Civil Rights Act passed it looked like things would be different, that blacks would finally be viewed as real people, or real value. Then, in 1883, the Supreme Court invalidated the decision. Riding in the back of the bus, being barred from “White Only” drinking fountains, and watching their fathers drug out of the house in the middle of the night by venom spewing white folks has caused some deep, deep pain. Living on the “other” side of the tracks, being called every name in the book in front of your children, lynchings, and tar and feather humiliation has caused some deep, deep pain.

Every time I pass an African Methodist Episcopal Church I am reminded of the pain of my black brothers and sisters. The only reason there is such a thing as African Methodist Episcopal churches today is because white folks carried Richard Allen, the founder of the denomination, out of a white Methodist church where he was praying with some other men.

It’s not just the various ethnic groups who can identify with the Samaritans. Those who have messed up and never been allowed to live it down can identify. Something done years ago and never forgotten. An act of immaturity, ignorance, has turned into a verdict of guilty with a sentence of life. You use to worship God, but somehow you went awol and left the Lord. Now you’re trying to get things right, but everybody says you’re wrong in believing you can ever change. Continually being battered for what you have done in the past can cause some deep, deep pain. I don’t want us to be like the Samaritans, who, because of the years and years of persecution, hatred, prejudice, and oppression turned their deep hurt into hated toward the Jerusalem Jews.

Jesus knew the hurt of the Samaritans. He had heard all of the stories of the no-good Samaritans. Since He was a little boy Jesus had heard that the Samaritans were low class folks, people that “we” don’t associate with. Jesus didn’t buy it. He knew the Samaritans to be the people for whom He came to give His life.

Throughout Jesus’ life He always sought to reach out to the no account Samaritans. Jesus didn’t have sympathy on the Samaritans because He was some sort of weak kneed, bleeding heart, but because He knew the heart of some of the Samaritan people and He found them to have a purer heart for God than their pious cousins. Let me give you a couple of examples.

One day, while Jesus was walking to Jerusalem, He met ten men who had leprosy. Jesus’ encounter with the men taught Him much about the Samaritan people. Take a look.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. {12} As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance {13} and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” {14} When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. {15} One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. {16} He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan. {17} Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? {18} Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” {19} Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19 NIV)

The “pure-as-the-wind-driven-snow Jews” asked Jesus, “out of all of the Commandments, which one is the greatest?” Jesus said, “Love God and love your neighbor.” The pious preacher pressed Him by saying, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with this story.

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. {31} A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. {32} So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. {33} But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. {34} He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. {35} The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ {36} “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:30-36 NIV)

The Samaritan people were amazed that Jesus would take for them. One Samaritan lady, whom Jesus met at a well one day, was astounded that He would ask her for a cup of water. She said, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

Not only were the Samaritans amazed that Jesus would speak to them, the Jewish teachers, the Pharisees were amazed as well. Jesus was speaking to them one day, shaking a long finger and saying, “Shame, shame” for all of the bad press they were giving God. The more Jesus talked, the more angry the Pharisees became. Let’s break in on the conversation as we catch the last phrase of Jesus’ words to them.

He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” {48} The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” {49} “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. (John 8:47-50 NIV)

I think it is interesting how Jesus answered their accusation of being demon-possessed, but He didn’t even think their accusation of being a Samaritan deserved a response. They were calling Jesus a no account, good-for-nothing low life, but Jesus knew the Samaritans, He knew they were of more noble character than His accusers. Jesus didn’t see any need to distance Himself from the hurting people of Samaria.

Jesus’ love for the so-called good-for-nothings of His day ran so deep that when He was getting ready to leave this earth, after His resurrection had taken place, He took time to speak to His followers. This is what He said,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)

Immediately after Jesus spoke these words He left them to take His seat at the right hand of Almighty God. Isn’t it just like Jesus to include Samaria in the list of those who will receive the Good News of God’s grace and mercy found in Jesus?!

It is so important for us to realize that when the Gospel began to spread, it spread first to Samaria, the people who needed some Good News. The Church in Jerusalem was growing fast when persecution came about. When the persecution came many of the followers of Jesus left Jerusalem and the first story of their travels we can read about is found right here as Philip goes to Samaria to spread the Good News of Jesus. The people were so receptive to Philip’s message about Jesus because they needed some Good News. Maybe God is dealing with you this morning and nudging you to check into Jesus since you are in dire need of some Good News as well.

There is Good News for the Samaritans among us this morning. Those folks like me who have compromised their faith over and over again and wonder if they can truly be forgiven. Those whose past is suspect. Those whose integrity have left much to be desired. Those who think they don’t have a chance of ever being anything other than a no account, good-for-nothing. The Good News is that Jesus has come to share the no account, good-for-nothing Gospel with me and you. It is a Word of hope to those who are hopeless. It is a Word of forgiveness for those who are burdened down with the heavy load of guilt. It is a Word of freedom to those who have been held in sin’s captivity for far too long.

The Good-For-Nothing, No Account Gospel
Acts 8:1-25