Summary: Why focusing on sacrifice causes trouble and how focusing on compassion (as Jesus instructs us to) brings better results.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH SACRIFICE? Sacrifice is not intrinsically bad, but the problem is when we say that more sacrifice equals a better Christian.
- Matthew 9:13.
- There is a lot that is good to sacrifice. Like many other things, though, making it the ultimate goal of our Christian life puts us in a situation that is a downhill path to negative consequences.
- What exactly does the sacrifice do that gets us off track?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DO THAT?
1. OUR MISSION IS TWISTED TO THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THE ORIGINAL INTENT.
- Matthew 9:11, 13.
- We need to consider the juxtaposition of verses 11 and 13.
- In verse 13 Jesus clearly states His desire for compassion. He states that His very mission is to be near those who are spiritually sick. That means this isn’t just a side note but it’s the core of who He is and why He came. By obvious extension, it’s the core of what God wants out of those who speak for Him. Jesus is not just revealing His own heart here, but the heart of God. We see this throughout the Old Testament as God speaks time and time again of His desire to see His people come back to Him.
- By comparison, in verse 11 we have the Pharisees shocked and dumbfounded that Jesus would even be near the tax collectors and “sinners.” It doesn’t make any sense to them. And those thoughts arise from their religious thinking. Their convictions in that direction come from the way they understand God. They come not despite their religion but exactly because of their religion.
- This is worth some pondering. Their faith had been twisted into something that led them to despise the very thing they should have loved: those away from God. Their faith had been twisted into something that led them to shun the very ones they should have been seeking: those away from God.
- This is not just a slight departure from the right path. It’s embracing the exact opposite of the intended purpose.
- One of the main sources of this mess was the focus on sacrifice.
- If giving a little to God is good then giving a lot is better.
- If reading some of the Scripture is good then reading a lot is better.
- If being a little religious is good then being a lot is better.
- In their passionate pursuit of greater and greater sacrifice, they then were left to wonder why God wasn’t answering their nation’s prayers. It couldn’t be them – they were sacrificing so much for God! The only answer, then, was “them.” The sinners and unwashed were holding them back and causing the problem. The “sinners” rather than being the heart of the mission became the scapegoats.
- This is a horrible result: to have the people who should be central in drawing people to God and have them want nothing to do with those who are away from God. In fact, rather than drawing people toward God, if anything they repelled them.
2. MEASURING HOLINESS THIS WAY MAKES RELIGION INTO A COMPETITION.
- When we measure our Christianity by the level of sacrifice, then being a good Christian means being better than everyone else. That almost inevitably will lead to a sense of spiritual superiority to those around us. It’s almost necessary for me to feel like I’m where I need to be as a Christian.
- Some examples of ways this shows itself:
a. How much I give.
- “I’m one of the biggest givers in this church.” “Almost no one gives 10% any more, but I still do.”
b. How much I do.
- “I’m at the church just about every day.” “I do a lot at church.”
c. How faithful I am.
- “I never miss a service.”
d. How much Bible I know.
- “He knows more Scripture than anyone else in this church.”
e. How long I pray.
- “I’m a prayer warrior.”
- Is our focus on competition or compassion?
- Focusing on competition causes us to lose sight of caring for those around us. It causes us to turn the spiritual progress of our brothers and sisters in Christ into something we can’t rejoice in. Instead we have to outdo it.
- Jesus points us to a better thing to focus our attention on: compassion.
AVOIDING THE TRAP: Jesus gives us the key – focus on compassion, not sacrifice.
- Matthew 9:13.
- Compassion is at the heart of the mission of Jesus. Compassion is the thing that helps us to see those around us in the way that Jesus wants us to.
- Compassion is required if we’re going to complete what Jesus has given us to do. It’s easy to look at those around us and be disgusted by their behavior. Why would I want to invest my heart and prayers in someone who is doing stupid things to mess up their life? No reason really makes a lot of sense except wanting to be compassionate because God has been compassionate with us.