What Is the Loving Thing To Do?

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:1–6 (ESV)

1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus was dining at the house of a Pharisee. This is an important detail in this story because the Pharisees were known for their strong emphasis on keeping the law. They were so committed to keeping the law, that they even added additional rules of their own to make sure they kept the law. They were the legalists of Jesus’ day.

One of the laws that was central to Jewish life was the keeping of the Sabbath. No work was to be done. So, when a man with dropsy went to see Jesus on a Sabbath, what would Jesus do? Would he heal the man or would he refuse to work on the Sabbath? Jesus asked his hosts what they thought about the situation. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” he asked. They remained silent, so he asked them if they had a son or an ox that fell into a well on a Sabbath, would they pull the son or ox out. Of course they would! The welfare of a person, or even an animal, is too important. It was not the intent of the law to harm people. So, of course healing a person on the Sabbath is lawful!

Jesus’ questions that confronted the Pharisees legalistic mindset cut to the heart of the matter. In essence, Jesus asked, “What is the loving thing to do?” Would love help a son that fell into a well? Would love pull an ox out of a hole in the ground? Would love walk away from a man with dropsy when healing was possible? We must be careful that our rules and regulations do not become a hindrance to loving others. After all, Jesus said that to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves is a summary of the whole law (cf. Matthew 22:36-40).

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Love Is the Law

Love God, Love Others

Reading the Word

Luke 13:10–17 (ESV)

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The religious leaders had so perverted the law of God that they used it even to undermine acts of kindness, love, and mercy on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy by pointing out that they all untied their oxen or donkeys on the Sabbath to lead them to water. How much more appropriate to show compassion to a human being?

When our rules prevent us from showing love and compassion to others or become an excuse for us to avoid others, there is something wrong with our rules. God’s law was given to foster love for the Lord and for others, not prevent it. This is why Paul states in Romans 13:8 that “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Over and over again, Christ showed love and compassion to sinners and we are called to do the same.

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Doing Good on the Sabbath

The Man with the Withered Hand

The Man with the Withered Hand (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:9–14 (ESV)

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Parallel Texts: Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, the religious leaders are looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. In this passage, they are waiting for him to heal someone on the Sabbath. In response to their question, Jesus asks if they would rescue their sheep from a well on the Sabbath if it fell in. Of course they would! Well, if a person is of more value than an animal, why would it be wrong to heal someone on the Sabbath? Then Jesus healed the man with a withered hand. The religious leaders were not happy with Jesus and they sought how to destroy him.

Legalism is a dangerous mindset towards God’s word. Those who live this way may follow the letter of the word, but they often fail at the weightier matters that the law intends to address. What good is it to obey the letter of the law and fail to exercise love and compassion towards others? This is why Jesus said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” in verse 7. Such “obedience” does not please God and can often become an excuse for selfishness and pride. Let us hear the words of Jesus and seek to love our neighbors by doing what is good and right.

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The Lord of the Sabbath

The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath

The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath (Public Domain)

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental materials on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:1–8 (ESV)

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5