In our Greek Word Devotional series, we discuss some of our favorite passages in the Bible, focusing on the specific use of certain Greek words. This week, we wanted to look at how our Heavenly Father describes Himself.
“Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The following is an excerpt from the CSB Study Bible:
Greek pronunciation: EH leh ahss
CSB translation: mercy
Uses in Matthew: 3 (Lk, 6)
Uses in the NT: 27
Focus passage: Matthew 9:13
Eleos is one of several NT words meaning mercy. Each of the three times that this word appears in Matthew, Jesus uses it to refer to principles established in the OT, where God clearly required that his people show mercy. Twice Jesus quotes Hs 6:6, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13; 12:7). The Hebrew term (chesed) underlying the Greek translation combines ideas of love, mercy, and faithful loyalty. The Pharisees condemned Jesus for fraternizing with social outcasts (Mt 9:11), but he reminded them that God expected his people to show mercy before giving sacrifice. In Mt 23 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees even more harshly, and one of his grievances was their neglect of the more important aspects of the law (“justice, mercy, and faithfulness”) even while they meticulously tithed their mint, dill, and cumin.
As we continue to walk through our 2022 goal of actually living out Scripture, this passage really pops off the page. Here we have a group of the ultra-religious who claim that they are living out the Scriptures. They tithe, they follow the Law, and they hold others accountable when they don’t do as good a job as themselves.
But what does Jesus tell them? Essentially, their good works are like filthy rags if they lack “the more important aspects of the law.” We can tithe all we want. We can sacrifice every day. But if we withhold mercy, justice, faithfulness? Well, then we kind of missed the point.
Remember, Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners. And we aren’t the righteous. So may we extend mercy, uphold justice, and live faithfully, knowing that Jesus came for all.