Daily Archives: June 29, 2011

Joshua 1; Psalms 120-122; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.  Matthew 9:9-13

In responding to the Pharisees who are questioning him about eating with “tax collectors and sinners”,  Jesus responds “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”  I have been pondering this for the last couple of weeks.  What are the key differences between mercy and sacrifice?  I came up with three.

First, mercy tends to require responding to needs “in the moment” whereas sacrifice is often provided in a planned manner.  A merciful person sees a person in need, recognizes the needs, and responds to it.   A sacrificial person often plans ahead to give of their resources (time, money, and talents).  There is certainly nothing wrong with giving sacrificially unless it becomes so ritualistic that the act of giving is perfunctory.

The second difference is the focus of each.   The primary focus of  mercy is on others.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  He saw a need and responded to it.  The primary focus of sacrifice is on the person doing the sacrificing.  Again, there is certainly nothing wrong with sacrifice as long as one doesn’t use it to shine the light on their good deeds.

That’s where the third difference comes in.  It’s a difference of attitude.  A person focused on mercy is likely driven by an attitude of compassion.  A person focused on sacrifice is likely driven by an attitude of self-righteousness.  I believe this is what Jesus was getting at when he chastised the Pharisees.

I am a person where sacrifice (even self-righteousness) comes easier than mercy. 

  • I can plan my time around “doing the Lord’s work”, but I don’t respond willingly and cheerfully when my life is “interrupted” by a person in need.
  • I have contempt for those “gaming the system” and fail to realize that many of them are some of the disenfranchised who are in need of mercy and compassion.

Jesus’ words were intended for me, as well.

Lord Jesus,

Forgive me when I become self-righteous.  I am just as much a sinner as those on whom I sometimes look down.  Give me an attitude of mercy and compassion.  Give me eyes to see the need and a heart to respond in the moment.  Amen.

Greg (gmd40187)

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Filed under M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew