Matthew 12:7

"I Desire Compassion"

But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. (Matthew 12:7, NASB).

We get tied up in all sorts of technical religious issues that keep us from prioritizing the things that are on the Lord's heart. The Lord clearly identifies in this verse one of the key prioritizing agents that can protect us from neglecting the way of God's love.

I felt convicted when I read this for I sensed the numerous times I focused on the wrongs of others. The Pharisees were accusing the disciples of doing wrong when there was no wrong done. Jesus says this later in 12:7, "You would not have condemned the innocent." If they had the right thoughts, then they would never have found themselves criticizing others for nothing.

If grace
does not
rule us

If grace does not rule us, then pride will. Grace forgets about comparing with people. Pride makes comparison its food.

If we get down to God's heart, we need to understand how much this compassion and grace is a part of God's very nature. On the one hand we all live due to His grace and mercy. We all live off of His compassion, and so we should regularly be compassionate to others. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work quite like this.

God doesn't receive mercy or compassion. He is quite unlike us in this way. And yet, He is compassionate. He is gracious. What is going on here?

Man without God's grace will continue to show that he does not share God's character and purpose. God has determined to show forth His wonderful grace and love through mankind. The key aspect behind this is the undeserving aspect. This is what the cross of Christ is all about. God sent His Son to die for sinners. The Christian message and life is only about grace and love. Without this pulse of grace throbbing through our lives, we will pursue a hardened course of treatment stemming in pride.

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Let's first focus on criticism and judgment on others.

It is not just the criticism that drives people down, it is the spirit of judgment behind it. This is not to say that we have many a time made mistakes and rightfully deserve judgment. (We should note that Jesus was not saying that sin can be ignored. Their accusations were upon the innocent.)

When we yell or scold someone like our life partner, colleague or child, we actually think that we are doing right. We might even in anger cast our cold words against what we think are wrong actions. This is the pride in us that has made comparisons. Our purpose is to establish that we in fact are better than another. Sometimes we think it is our job; others think it is a good hobby. Whatever the case, we see that God desires mercy and compassion and not these accusations.

In order to bring a cure to our evil hearts, we need to stop thinking how to criticize and focus on how to build up or encourage others. The best place to practice is on the ones we have needlessly villified. I would suggest taking these steps.

1) Apologize

Simply go up to the person and state that you have not encouraged them as the Lord would want you to and that you have instead done the opposite. Ask them to forgive you. Wait for them to forgive you. If they say, don't worry about it, just again admit your sin and ask for forgiveness.

2) Patience

There might be a number of expectations upon which these others are not performing up to standard. You need to be patient for a while. After all, you have hammered them into a hole. Give them a chance to crawl out and see the light for a while.

3) Compassionate

Now you need to focus on how you can inspire others to do well. People often confuse this with ignoring the wrong of others. Compassionate living actually requires one to get very involved with others.


Take a step toward being more compassionate. In what way has your pride held you back from an opportunity to show God's love to another? Didn't God compassionately treat you? Now treat others likewise.

Other Matthew articles:

Matthew 1:22-23 Bridge of Life; Immanuel
Matthew 5-7 Sermon on Mount: Introduction, Outline, Bible Study
Matthew 5:1-12 The Eight Beatitudes
Matthew 5:22-44 Sermon on Mount: Six Test Cases of Love
Matthew 5:33-37 Sermon on Mount: Walking in Integrity
Matthew 6:21 Sermon on Mount: Detecting Heart Divisions
Matthew 12:7 'I Desire Compassion'
Matthew 15:21-28 Staying Focused on God's Will
Matthew 17:24-27 Trusting God for money

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom

by Paul J. Bucknell