When Faith Becomes a Weapon
If you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. Matthew 12:7
When I read passages like today’s, I immediately think of those who really need to read it. In the story, Jesus and his disciples were picking grain on the Sabbath, which was a direct violation of the fourth commandment. The Pharisees witnessed this and used their knowledge of God’s rules to confront Jesus. Hey, you’re breaking the law! Jesus chastised the Pharisees in return, suggesting that they worshipped and loved the rules instead of worshipping God and loving his people.
When I read the story, I can think of those I’ve met who are just like the Pharisees. These are the kind of people who quote Paul, If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), and use it as an excuse to never help the poor. These people use their faith as a weapon against those around them. They read God’s word and they point it at everyone but themselves.
Suddenly, I realize I’m doing it. When I imagine how I could write a scathing blog about these people, hoping they would read it and somehow recognize themselves, it brings me some satisfaction. It makes me feel better about myself to point out the failures of others . . . Oh, I’m doing it again, using God’s rules as a weapon against someone else.
This is the offense of the Pharisees in the story. They loved the rules so much that they would have used them to cause Jesus and his disciples to go hungry. The commandment against working on the Sabbath was meant to enhance man’s worship of God, but the Pharisees would have used the same rule to starve the disciples, which would have had the opposite effect of the law’s intent.
We often do this as Christians. We know the rules and feel it is our duty to enforce them on everyone else. In doing so, we fail to apply God’s word to our own lives. We just use the rules to elevate ourselves. Jesus though, insists that he desires mercy and not sacrifice. He asks that we not just blindly cling to the rules, smashing each other over the head with them, but that we adhere to the heart of the law, showing love, kindness, and mercy to each other.