Dear Pastor, Preacher, or Bible Teacher –
Happy Monday to you! Today I want to draw your attention to a familiar story, found in Matthew 9. What Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day caught my attention for what it says to us as those serving the Lord.
But go and learn what this means:
“I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”
For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13)
Did you know that religious leaders can be hypocrites?
I don’t mean that in the way most people mean “hypocrite” today. If you hold standards that you don’t fully live up to, that doesn’t make you a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is pretending you keep a standard when you don’t or having one standard for yourself and a stricter standard for others.
Jesus had strong words for the hypocritical religious leaders of His day. As pastors, preachers, and Bible teachers I think we can learn something from these words of Jesus to the hypocritical Pharisees of Matthew 9.
First, we learn God’s priorities: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Here Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6. In Hosea’s day, God’s people were still good at bringing sacrifices (as in Hosea 5:6), but they had forsaken mercy, and they abandoned mercy because they gave up the knowledge of God and truth (as seen in Hosea 4:1). God would rather have right hearts, full of truth and mercy than religious acts such as sacrifice. Remember, they will know we are Christians by our love, more than by our “religious” acts and events.
Second, we learn God’s focus: I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Jesus didn’t come for those who already consider themselves righteous and in no need of a savior. Jesus came to save those who recognize their need, and know they are sinners.
Finally, we learn shallowness of the religious leaders: But go and learn what this means. These words of Jesus show the shallowness of the leaders’ knowledge of God and His word. These were men who thought of themselves as experts with God’s word. When Jesus said, go and learn what this means these men were probably insulted and shocked that Jesus dared to say, “Go and learn what the Bible says.”
Friends, we don’t want to make the same mistakes these hypocrites made. We need to understand and do ministry in light of God’s priorities, aligned with His focus, and with a deep knowledge of God and His word. With God’s help and humble hearts, we can.
Blessings to you in Jesus’ Name – David Guzik