“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath?”

In Luke 6: 6-11, Jesus is teaching in a synagogue, the scribes and Pharisees watching him closely as usual. They want to catch him curing someone on the sabbath, which is against their rules.

A man whose hand is withered asks for Jesus’ healing, and knowing that the scribes and Pharisees are watching, Jesus asks the man to stand before the crowd. Jesus then says, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Jesus looks around at everyone, then says to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand.” The man does so and his hand is returned to good health. This enrages the scribes and Pharisees, who confer on what action to take against Jesus. I paraphrase the narrative, so read the scripture for the full story.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls out the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites and vipers for looking for ways to nitpick the rules and laws against him and his disciples. Yet we never seem to learn, because that nitpicking continues to this day.

It’s hard to know someone else’s motives, but one wonders if some people don’t nitpick the rules and laws to find fault in others simply to make themselves look better. Or perhaps it’s because those other people pose a threat to the power and prestige of certain people who present themselves as living righteous and perfect lives. Maybe it’s an effort to deflect light away from their own lives living in the sins upon which they so vehemently shed light.

So often we see hypocrites using Jesus’ words to show how righteous they are. But we need to remember that Jesus didn’t buddy around with the righteous or the rich. He spent his time with sinners and those struggling in life — the poor, the sick, the discarded. If you’re going to take your example from anyone, don’t take it from those who celebrate their own purity while denigrating the sinners and less fortunate, take your example from those who actually help others without seeking notoriety. They are the closer to Jesus and the kingdom of heaven.

 

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