Mercy & Sacrifice

God’s Word can be like God-given natural color, they look different every time we see them. As I was reading my Bible today, I noticed Jesus helping us to understand the difference between mercy and sacrifice. My curiosity got the best of me and I dug a little deeper to understand better. 

Mercy vs Grace

  • Mercy, in a very general basic sense, means we receive what we do NOT deserve.
  • Grace, in a very general basic sense, means we receive more than what we deserve.

God has been more loving than we ever deserve, he has given us both his mercy and his grace. He gives us, in abundance, more than what we deserve. And he does NOT give us what we really do deserve. His love has covered us from all angles.

Okay, in the simplistic general basic sense, I understand that one. Today in my Bible reading I came across this like it was something I had never read. You know how it is, every time you read the same scripture, something new can be revealed.


Jesus clearly made this particular statement, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Matthew 9:9-13 NIV

I understand the two words individually, mercy and sacrifice. But Jesus is comparing them to each other in this text. Jesus sacrificed everything for us so he certainly is not saying sacrifice alone is bad. And we know that we are to show mercy towards others, so that is not bad. Here are two things we are supposed to be doing and now Jesus is asking us to look more deeply, listen more carefully to his words. This is where the relationship with the Lord is so helpful. I could look up the answer on the Internet and be done with it. Instead, I want to know and truly hear what he is telling me specifically to get my attention today.

All I have to do is reveal my very first thoughts. Where am I displaying sacrifice instead of mercy? I am good at sacrifice. I mean I can get an A++ on that subject. I might even have some pride issues surrounding this one, can you tell? I have sacrificed myself into a disease state of ill health forcing me to stop and evaluate the situation a few years ago. How exactly did that serve Christ?

I have no regrets for any moment of any sacrifice that I have ever offered, ever. Yet, from the big health crash almost 6 years ago, I can see where sacrifice is not always what I thought it was. My physical body took me on this journey before my mind and soul joined in. When my body no longer allowed me to sacrifice for others, my mind and soul started to explore what all of this meant.

Let’s work on mercy. Let’s go a bit deeper than my simplistic definition of NOT receiving what we deserve. Going to use the Internet for this one.

Flower orange - red poppy on green natural background


Definition of mercy:
  1. Compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also: lenient or compassionate treatment = Begged for mercy.
    imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder, a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion = May God have mercy on us.
  2. A fortunate circumstance = It was a mercy they found her before she froze.
  3. Compassionate treatment of those in distress = Works of mercy among the poor. ~ Merriam Webster

Digging deeper…

Definition of mercy, more insight:

Mercy is a concept integral to an understanding of God’s dealings with humankind. In English translations of the Bible, it comes to expression in phrases such as “to be merciful, ” “to have mercy on, ” or “to show mercy toward.” The corresponding term, “merciful, ” describes a quality of God and one that God requires of his people. The noun denotes compassion and love, not just feelings or emotions, as expressed in tangible ways. ~ Bible Study Tools

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Now I am getting somewhere (in my own mind). I like concepts instead of things being so black and white that we cannot see the beauty in color, variety, variance in life and living. I love how God has shown mercy to me. I would not be here today had he not loved me enough to do so. I would have been struck by lightning and burned back to dust forever ago. But how much mercy do I show others? He requires it os us, so yikes, how am I doing there?

Wow, as I quickly think about this I come up with an equal amount of failures and successes on my part. That is not good enough, it is kind of like I have wiped out all the good with the bad.

As I went on to read the article in Bible Study Tools, I learned that mercy is like God’s covenant “lovingkindness.” I really like that, I can wrap my brain around it. Instead of getting stuck on my faults, I will have mercy on myself and make this self-correction. I can clearly see when I have shown “lovingkindness” in the truest sense. I think I understand now the difference that Jesus was saying about showing another mercy, not sacrifice. Mercy is deeper, more meaningful than sacrifice. It takes the emphasis off of me and puts it more on others. I have always had a deep compassion for others and their journeys but I can take this even deeper.

I can do this more thoughtfully now. It has been a good day, thank you, Jesus!!

Tiger lily flower in full fiery orange bloom

Reading God’s word daily is revealing. It helps us grow and deepen our walk with the Lord. There are all kinds of ways we can read scripture daily. I have spent years where I took one book per semester and dug, drilled and mined as deep as I could go at the time.

The last couple decades I have used Bible-in-a year. Reading through the Bible once a year is a ball. We could do it every year of all our lives and still have bran-spanking-new revelations.  I have never read the same words exactly the same way any two years. There are all kinds of ways to get through the Bible-in-a-year, many are even free.

Are you enjoying, growing and learning with God’s word?

Maribeth Baxter, MBEC (Certified Mind-Body Eating Coach)

LOGO Biblical GRADIENTfinal

Donations accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.

What is God telling YOU about this?

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