This devotional was originally published on November 3, 2016.
He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 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. 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? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
— Matthew 12:9-14
The Pharisees were trained in the intricacies of the Law and they were masters at adding new restraints on what was allowed in Jewish society. They were educated, yet devoid of empathy. In their devious attempt to entrap Jesus, they made the Sabbath about doing something or not doing something.
Jesus, in his mercy, made the Sabbath about doing something good, not about doing anything. The implication is that not doing good when one is able, on any day of the week, would be morally wrong. In other words, the ability to do good imposes an obligation to do it.
These scheming Pharisees were constrained from action by rules, whereas Jesus was compelled by compassion. Jesus saw the affliction of the person, whereas the Pharisees were imprisoned by restrictions.
So how about us? Are we constricted by rules we impose on ourselves or constraints created by ourselves or others? How often do we see an opportunity to minister to someone in need and do nothing? Would we consider ourselves merciful and compassionate? Do we see into the people around us, or do we look past them?
Let us make today a day for good living. If we see a need today that we are able to meet, let’s “stretch out our hand” in mercy.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
— James 4:17