7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:7-12 (New International Version)
Masters of Rules
The Pharisees, in Jesus’s time, were the religious elite. They knew the Law of Moses inside and out, and even added more rules to it believing that by following them, they would be righteous before God. So when they saw Jesus’s disciples picking grain on the Sabbath Day in Matthew 12, they immediately cried foul against Jesus. After all, according to the law, the Sabbath was a day of rest and work was not allowed. However, in their zeal for their rules, the Pharisees failed to see what it means to be righteous before the Lord.
Rules to Godliness?
The idea that rules are the key to godliness can still be seen in this day and age. There are even some Christians today, who make religious guidelines for themselves believing they would make them look good in the eyes of God. However, such thinking runs contrary to what the Bible says.
Rules Don’t Save
What does the Almighty think about religious rules? Time and time again in the Scriptures, God tells us that following rules will not make us good in His sight. That is because they are made by man.
Weakness of Man’s Standards
Man’s standards of righteousness, when compared to the Lord’s Holy standard, pale in comparison. That is because man’s standards are tainted by sin. No rule by man, no matter how spiritual, can make us right with the Almighty.
The Attraction of Rules
Why are people so attracted to following man-made religious rules? First of all, they are easy to follow and do not require us to step out of our comfort zones. Furthermore, man-made rules can also be changed in order to suit our preferences. In general, the appeal of religious rules is that we can control them.
Mercy Pleases God
However, as followers of Christ, we need to break free from this urge of following the religious laws of men. Jesus, in verses 7-12, explains that our Heavenly Father is pleased with us when we show mercy and compassion to those who are in need instead of following rules. However, when we decide to be merciful, we must not pick and choose those whom we have compassion for.
Compassion for the Undeserved
We are called to show mercy even to those we feel do not deserve it. Even to those who have offended us, we are commanded by the Lord to show compassion. Why should we do such a thing? We need to do this because that is what our Lord Jesus Christ did for us.
As long as we were in sin, we were enemies of God and condemned to His wrath. However, Jesus had compassion on us and saved us from this condemnation by taking our punishment upon Himself. Even though we did not deserve mercy, Christ showed us grace and forgave us of our transgressions, making us right before the Lord.
Showing Grace to Others
Therefore, since Jesus showed us grace, we too must offer grace to others. While following religious rules may be easy for us to do, it is not the best use of our brief time on this earth. Now grace can be messy and may even cause us discomfort. Nevertheless, when we generously offer compassion to others, we live a life that bring honor and glory to our Father in Heaven; and that makes it all totally worth it.