(Matthew 9:10-13 ESV) And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Have you ever been criticized for having non-Christian friends? Have you ever wondered whether or not you should “hang” with people that do not share your passion for Christianity? That is exactly the picture that is painted in this passage of Scripture. Jesus had gone to Matthew’s house and was reclining at the dinner table as was the custom of the day. It caused quite a stir among the religious elite who questioned whether or not He should be associating with tax-collectors and sinners. It should be noted that the tax-collectors and sinners were pursuing Jesus trying to discover the truth that He was declaring.
Jesus response was three-fold. First, He did not discount the condition of those with whom he was dining. He categorized them as being “sick” and in need of a physician. He was not putting them down. Rather, He was trying to raise them up.
Secondly, He realized that the religious zealots were lacking adequate knowledge of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. Jesus was not “hanging” with them in the sense that he wanted to be buddies with them. He was there so they could experience life-changing mercy.
Jesus wanted these religious legalists to understand that mercy was more valuable in this environment than outward sacrifices. “Sacrifices” were offerings made to God on account of sin, or as an expression of thanksgiving. In this instance, mercy means benevolence or kindness toward others. Jesus was saying, “I prefer mercy to sacrifice;” or, “I am more pleased with acts of benevolence and kindness than with a mere external compliance with the duties of religion.”
Finally, Jesus was not suggesting that He had no interest in the already righteous. He loved them very much and wanted them to obtain the spiritual revelation that would allow them to see this situation through His eyes. The message that He was trying to convey was that in this environment, when interacting with those outside of the faith, the priority was to help the sick people get well.
Listen, if we as Christians do not interact with unbelievers in a positive way, they may never be exposed to the victory that could be theirs. Just a word of caution. Be strong enough to maintain your integrity at all times. Jesus was never in danger of compromising His character. It was His faithfulness to a life of righteousness that attracted so many that He interacted with. You have that same power abiding in you!
PRAYER: Father, my purpose in life is to represent you to a dark world in a positive light. Fortunately, I have your spirit living in me, which enables me to be successful in this endeavor. Let my light shine so that others may see it and be attracted to You. Amen.