To Do Good or Harm

Jesus is rightly exalted for many of the things He did while on earth. We marvel at His miracles, ponder His teachings, and celebrate His death and resurrection on our behalf. But one aspect of Jesus’ life is easy to overlook, but it displayed His remarkable wisdom. What is this overlooked aspect? His ability to ask questions.

With His questions, He could open up teaching opportunities for His disciples and also dispel the arguments of the religious leaders. Jesus accomplishes both of these things with His question in the second Sabbath controversy in Luke 6. While teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, a man with a withered hand was present. The Pharisees, expecting Jesus to address this man’s condition, watched with judgmental eyes so they could accuse Him if He healed the man. In their attempt to keep others from working on the Sabbath, they established rules against merciful acts of healing on this holy day. Once again, Jesus would have none of it. He asked them this question:

“I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?”
(Luke 6:9)

His question begins with “is it lawful…” This shows Jesus isn’t interested in ignoring God’s law. On the contrary, He is there to fulfill God’s law, while it is the religious leaders who break God’s law with their man-made rules. “On the Sabbath” illustrates that Jesus isn’t sidestepping what they are really concerned about. Heal this man any other day of the week, and they wouldn’t blink an eye. “To do good or to do harm…” gets to the heart of Jesus’ point. God’s law was never meant to bring harm. His law reveals His standards as well as what it means to love God and neighbor. When we reject one, we reject both. The Pharisees missed this key principle.

What are some ways our religious devotion may cause us to harm others?

  • We drive unlovingly, and maybe almost hit someone, because we are late for church. (Guilty, though it was a long time ago.)
  • We are rude to restaurant wait staff as we enjoy our post-worship meal, aka Sunday lunch. 
  • We harbor resentment towards a guest because they took “our” seat in the worship center.
  • We purposely share God’s truth in an unnecessarily offensive way just to get our point across to “those sinners.”

Though I am glad Immanuel is a friendly church and I don’t believe these sins are rampant among us, it is always good to examine our hearts. We can ask Jesus the hard question above and He will answer with grace.

By Philip Jones

Philip and his wife, Stacy, have been attending Immanuel since 2015. They are blessed to be raising four kids. His passion in ministry is to help others follow Jesus through teaching, preaching, and personal discipleship.






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