"Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'"
- Jesus of Nazareth
So, Jesus is sitting at a dinner with a new friend, Matthew, who collects taxes for a living. Matthew's friends are kind of a shady bunch and tax collectors have a horrible reputation. As they were eating, some super religious people asked Jesus' followers "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" Jesus overheard the conversation and chimes in this response: "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'" (Matthew 9:9-13)
If Jesus tells people to go and learn what this means, it is probably important for me to do the same. "Sacrifice" to the super religious people meant doing all the right things at the temple and looking perfect before God and man. Jesus says that God wants lives that are full of mercy not doing out of obligation or show.
I am continually reminded that even if I am doing something "good" or even something God loves, it is nothing if my motive is: to feel good about myself, for others to see how "generous" I am, to do what is expected of me, or to do line by line what Jesus says. If serving at a soup kitchen, organizing food drives or giving money to orphans is just another bullet point on my "to-do" list, I'm still not loving God. My actions mean nothing if I am not in Christ and Christ is not in me. Jesus continually tells us that life isn't about doing but being. And that by being (in Him) our doing is just what He loves. hmmm . . .