Prepare to Listen. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Prayerfully Read Matthew 9:9-13
9As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. 10And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 12But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
Why would Jesus eat with the ‘unclean’ tax collectors and sinners? This was the question on the mind of the Pharisees. A righteous person, in their books, avoided close contact with the unclean. And there was Jesus, relaxed in the presence of sinners, telling his accusers, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” You see, those who think they’re righteous see no need to repent and fail to realize they’ve put themselves beyond salvation. Jesus focused sinners because they knew their helplessness and need for salvation.
Perhaps the more significant question is: Why did tax collectors and sinners join Jesus at the table? What made them believe he’d welcome them? And he did. Sinners, whoever they were, whatever they’d done, were included and loved, not excluded and punished by Jesus.
I wonder why some churches today are quick to exclude people on the basis of different morals or beliefs. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, we need to be reminded of the prophet Hosea’s words that Jesus quoted: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” These words are so important, Jesus repeated them on a different occasion (12:7). He was serious when he said that, in God’s kingdom, the blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy.
Offering a sacrifice is so much easier than being merciful. Make a commitment to being merciful today to those you don’t like, or think don’t belong in the church.
Respond in Prayer
Jesus, your inclusion of all people, regardless of what the religious establishment thought, is how I want to be. Help me remember to let mercy, compassion rule my decisions about others today. Amen.
Live Obediently. Learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice.
 Hosea 6:6 “For I desire steadfast love [mercy] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.”
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.