Have Mercy

One of my favorite children’s songs is “I Just Wanna Be a Sheep.” This, of course, was before sheep were politicized.

The lyrics go like this:

I just wanna be a sheep
Baa, baa, baa, baa
I just wanna be a sheep
Baa, baa, baa, baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep
Baa, baa, baa, baa

The premise is that we are the sheep in God’s pasture, following the Great Shepherd Jesus. Sounds like a great life to me. But the brilliant part of the song is that it teaches kids about the nature of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in a memorable way.

Verse 3
Don’t wanna be a Pharisee
Don’t wanna be a Pharisee
‘Cause they’re not fair you see
Don’t wanna be a Pharisee

Verse 4
Don’t wanna be a Sadducee
Don’t wanna be a Sadducee
‘Cause they’re so sad you see
Don’t wanna be a Sadducee

The Pharisees weren’t fair because they were unkind and judgmental toward others. They condemned anyone who was not like them, and they hoarded their resources for themselves. They weren’t fair, you see. Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection, so they were so sad, you see.

Isn’t that clever?

Our Scripture today addresses the unfair Pharisees. Jesus really had a time with them, didn’t he? They criticized the starving disciples for picking and eating wheat on the Sabbath. See what Jesus does with that:

Matthew 12 (Common English Bible)

1 At that time Jesus went through the wheat fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they were picking heads of wheat and eating them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are breaking the Sabbath law.”

But he said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? He went into God’s house and broke the law by eating the bread of the presence, which only the priests were allowed to eat. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple treat the Sabbath as any other day and are still innocent? But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what this means, I want mercy and not sacrifice, you wouldn’t have condemned the innocent.

The piety of the Pharisees led them to condemn the innocent actions of others. They were so concerned with the outward appearances of themselves and others, they neglected the human need right before them. Ritual practices do not equate to the heartfelt worship of God. We are reminded that God looks upon the heart, not the appearance. So, all of the pious activities of these men meant nothing if mercy was not extended to God’s people in need.

This causes us to step back and consider our own piety. Do you make a show of attending church for the sake of being seen there? Do you read your Scriptures religiously and then go out and judge or condemn others? Are you practicing mercy toward God’s people in need in your community?

God wants sheep who will follow his Son seven days a week, not just Sundays. Where is he calling you to offer someone mercy?

Mercy Me! by Becca Ziegler

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