And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?” But when He heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Matthew 9:10-13 (NAS)

We live in a world that can be very confusing. It seems like everyone has an opinion about everything. I have been reminded on several different moments over the last week or two how easy it is to be critical and especially be critical of others that we think are not worthy of our time or the way they do something is not the way we would do it.

My wife is in Chile with her siblings and working through the final disposition of the family home now that their parents have both passed away. Her last text was interesting where she was interpreting some of the conversations to be negative because they were reflecting on their childhood and now their different kinds of churches they all attend and “passing an opinion” on the strengths and weaknesses of what they all liked and disliked. For Barb it sounded negative but when she spoke up they claimed they were all just sharing their views or passing opinions.

Somehow in our cultural context we think that opinions are freebees that we can spout off any way that we want and we are not accountable for the content. If we offend someone then we simply slide our statement to the category, “it was just my opinion…” like that makes it ok for me to say whatever I want. Most people are not used to justifying or defending opinions because this is simply the way they feel and it does not matter if it is right or wrong, at least in their mind. We don’t have to defend or justify our words even if it hurts others. The flip side of the same coin is that if someone is hurt by what we say then they are the ones that are oversensitive. We are masters at letting ourselves out of responsibility, especially by what we say.

I was pondering this and thinking about the text above from Matthew 9:10-13 where Jesus is having a dinner with those who were not valued by the Pharisees; they were tax-gatherers and sinners. The Pharisees question the disciples about why Jesus is hanging out with these people who are not worthy of being in their presence. If we wanted to be straight forward about this whole conversation Jesus has with the Pharisees I think they could have easily stated they were only stating a fact, or maybe giving an opinion or even just asking a question but Jesus does not seem to take it that way. I think they could have easily defended themselves by saying that we were only stating a fact or opinion and we were not judging anyone at all.

Certainly the way Jesus answers the question shows a slightly different perspective: Jesus challenges their arrogance or elitism. He states two things: first, a principle: It is not those who are healthy that need a physician but those who are sick. The inference obviously is that those who think they are ok have no need of healing. The sinners know they are sick, the Pharisees not so much. They are blind to their own sickness. But it is His next comment that is striking. “Go and learn what this means…” so he is challenging them to figure out and learn a truth about themselves they are blind to. “I desire compassion not sacrifice”. Sacrifices tend to be things we do for God. Compassion is having a heart that cares about others.

In our world you can find lots of people doing great things for God. You can find people who are building great ministries and having great vision and others making a huge impact in the lives of others. Not that these things are wrong but there is a temptation or danger that I can so busy building my ministry or my kingdom or doing such great things for God that my sacrifice becomes more important than people. We can find ourselves not caring for people because often they become the biggest obstacle to my success. Some people are worth spending time with, other are not. We can become critical of some people and others are our friends.

Jesus reminds all of us that above the wonderful and great sacrifice’s we make that for many of us we have to learn about compassion for others. So it would seem from Jesus perspective, compassion trumps sacrifice, or in this case opinions.

Brad Little