Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 6:9
“And Jesus said to them, I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm, to save a life, or to destroy it?” – Luke 6:9
Under Jewish tradition, sabbath regulations could be overridden only in times where a life is endangered. Otherwise, the sabbath must be upheld completely. And this is the issue Jesus is dealing with in our focus verse. “And it came about on another Sabbath, that He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.” Luke 6:6. A withered hand was not life threatening and thus did not qualify as an exception to Sabbath rules. In fact, Rabbinic tradition strictly forbade straightening a deformed body or setting a broken limb on the Sabbath. Note the word here, tradition.
Now obviously, the leadership was watching carefully for a breach of their traditions. “And the scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He healed on the Sabbath, in order that they might find reason to accuse Him.” Luke 6:7. They did not care about this man; they were simply looking for some wrongdoing to accuse Jesus of doing. However, Jesus was aware of all this. “But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, Rise and come forward! And he rose and came forward.” Luke 6:8. Jesus was telling this man to come and stand before everyone, wanting to teach something to these Scribes and Pharisees.
Then Jesus continues with our focus verse, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm, to save a life, or to destroy it?” Luke 6:9. Jesus then looks around at all the leaders, waiting for an answer. He received none, for they had no good answer to give that would not make them look bad. Where good needs to be done, there can be no neutrality; and failure to do the good is to contribute to evil. It is thus not simply permissible to heal on Sabbath, it is right to do so, whether lawful or not. The scribes and Pharisees looked at the keeping of the Jewish laws as primary, no matter the impact it could have on others. A litmus test of true versus false religion is its response to injustice. Thus, according to Luke, the religious authorities have nothing to say to Jesus’ question. Their silence is self-incriminating, and Jesus returned their searching looks. And then Jesus tells the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand! And he did so; and his hand was restored.” Luke 6:10. A decision of faith now confronted the man. Most people with physical deformities seek to conceal them. What Jesus commands is the last thing the man wants to do if he is to hide his deformity, but the first thing he must do if he is to be healed of it. He did so, and his hand was completely restored. The man’s infirmity could be healed only by exposing it to Jesus. Faith is a risk that Jesus is worthy of trust when no other hope can be trusted.
Now after this the Pharisees were enraged at Jesus. “But they themselves were filled with rage and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.” Luke 6:11. Mark puts it in a much stronger way. “And the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” Mark 3:6. This early in the life and ministry of Jesus, they were ready to kill Him because of His view of traditions.
Now, there is another way to look at our focus verse that is essential if we are to do the work of God. “And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm, to save a life, or to destroy it?” Luke 6:9. There are two basic questions being asked here. First, is it acceptable to God to do good to someone, or to harm them? And second, is it acceptable to God to save a life or destroy it? We can look at this in regard to our physical life, but I believe this goes way beyond this. Should we let our traditions or desires cause us to do harm to others, or to always do good? There is nothing in the scriptures that say it is ok to do harm to anyone, either physical, mental, or psychological. Absolutely no one should feel harmed or attacked by someone who claims to be a follower of Christ. And no one should ever destroy a person’s life, neither their physical life, their spiritual life, or their integrity. To do any of these is an abomination to God. For in doing these things, are we falsely exhibiting love we claim to have for God and others. If we act in this way, how can we say we love them? In all things and all times, we must truly love everyone and do good to them, so that with the unsaved we can possibly plant a seed that leads them to salvation through Christ.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.