We talked about the Pharisees quite a bit last week, and you'd think by now, we've exhausted that particular topic, but no. They came up again this week as I was reading through the Gospels, and the little scenario we're going to look at today is very important in understanding the error of the Pharisees (and our own error) and what God desires of us.
The story begins with everyone standing around in the Temple on a Sabbath, and a crippled man is standing there, and Jesus heals him. The Pharisees immediately start talking about whether or not He was supposed to heal someone on the Sabbath. Basically, healing someone is work - it's not only work, but it's God's work - and how could you possibly do something like that on the day that you're supposed to rest and worship the God who does that kind of work?
Jesus responds by asking, "Is it right to do good on the Sabbath?" And then, He reminds them that if one of their sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath, they would not just leave it there; they would rescue their sheep from the pit, no matter what day it was.
But Jesus's question here is at the heart of the error of the Pharisees.
See, the Pharisees were always asking, "What is right? What is right?" and they were quick to tell everyone what they thought was wrong. This was their default. They always wanted to know what the rules were and how to follow the rules and how to enforce the rules. They were constantly looking for the line in the sand (when our Lord just knelt down and doodled in it).
When Jesus says, "Is it right to do good?" what He's saying is, 'ya'll are asking the wrong question.' It's not about the act itself, but the heart of the act. It's about the intention of the act. It's about why the act is chosen.
You can say that healing is work if you want to, but it's the wrong question. You have to ask whether something more holy will come from doing it than from not doing it.
Is it good?
And that's the question we should be asking ourselves, particularly when we are tempted to get caught up on what is right or wrong. Is it good? Is the intention and the heart of this action good? Will it do something holy in the world that not doing it would prohibit? Is acting more sacred an act than not acting? Is. it. good?
Because doing good is always 'right.'