Blessed Are the Merciful

Blessed Are the Merciful

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

We are exposed through 24/7 news outlets to so much violence and evil that it is easy to become cold-hearted, insensitive, and unsympathetic. To protect ourselves from all of the pain and suffering, we learn to not allow ourselves to dwell too long on what ails the world. In the process however, we can become almost indifferent and merciless.

But to be Christ-like is to be compassionate.  James 1:27 (NIV) says that religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is: “to look after orphans and widows in their distress”.  The Greek word for this is “episkeptomai”. Jesus used this word in Matthew 25:

Mat 25:36 (NIV) I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Mat 25:43 (NIV) I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

Compassion reflects the heart of God, who, throughout the Bible, cares for orphans, widows, and those in distress and tells us to care for them. And so, although James is talking about orphans and widows specifically, God calls us to care for all those in need.

Deuteronomy 10:17–19 (NKJV) 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

And this love is to be expressed in action

Deuteronomy 14:27–29 (NKJV) 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. 28 “At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates. 29 And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

In Matthew 25, Jesus was showing that when we provide for those in need we are providing for Him. In fact, our love for Him cannot be separated from our looking after the poor and needy. As God’s people, we are told to stand for justice. This means lifting the bonds of oppression, identifying with the cause of the poor, and meeting the needs of the downtrodden.

What is God’s will towards Poverty?

Deuteronomy 15:4–6 (NKJV) 4 except when there may be no poor among you; for the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance—5 only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today. 6 For the Lord your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you.

So, why are there poor in the world?  1) because of choice; 2) because of calamity; 3) because of sin and laziness; and 4) because of oppression from the rich and powerful.

Deuteronomy 15:11 (NKJV) 11 For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’

In the parable of The Good Samaritan, the priest completely ignored the injured man. The Levite looked at the injured man but passed by on the other side. At least he felt pity, but being a merciful person is more than just having pity. A merciful person acts with compassion as did the Samaritan.

Jesus then asked the question, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked?” The lawyer replied, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

A second parable, “The Unmerciful Servant” (Matt. 18:21-35), shows us a servant who was in debt and about to be punished but he pleaded for mercy and got it. He then demanded payment from someone who owed him money and when they begged for forgiveness, refused to show any mercy. Thus, his master reversed his decision and sent this merciless man to prison.

Application: God insists that those of us who have received mercy, show mercy to others. The character of mercy is displayed in giving compassion, giving help, giving time, giving money, giving of yourself, and giving forgiveness.

How were the poor shown kindness and goodness in the Old Testament?

1. Every third year a tithe was given for the care of the poor (Deut. 14:28, 29; 26:12).

2. The poor were free to have use of all that grew spontaneously in the field or vineyard during the Sabbatical year (Ex. 23:10; Lev. 25:5, 6).

3. Every year, the poor were allowed to glean on the fields and vineyards; the corners of the field were to be left for them, and if a sheaf was forgotten, it belonged to the poor (Lev. 19:9, 10; 23:22; 24:19).

4. The poor could eat fruit and ripe grain in the field, but should not carry it away (Deut. 23:24, 25).

5. The poor were invited to participate in the annual Feast of Tabernacles (Deut. 16:9-12).

6. Every 7th year debts were released (Deut. 15:1); Jewish slaves were set free in the 7th year of service; during Jubilee all lands were returned to their original owners (Lev. 25:8-7).

How were the poor shown kindness and goodness in the New Testament?

1. Jesus started His ministry saying He came to preach to the poor (Luke 4:18ff).

2. Jesus gave Matthew 25:36ff to show that God expects His people to care for the poor.

3. The early church cared for their poor (Acts 2, 4, 6).

4. Paul continued this care in His ministry to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:10).

5. Paul instructed churches to care for their poor.

6. James talked about pure religion in 1:27 as taking care of those in need..

How does someone develop a more merciful spirit?

Referring back to the story of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:33-34), we see that there are three practical steps we can take toward being “merciful” as the Lord would have us to be.

A. See the need – “and when he saw him”. The Samaritan saw the man, most likely a Jew, as someone who needed help. For all intents and purposes the man was the Samaritan’s enemy, but that made no difference. He was simply another human being in need of assistance. Learning to see others as God sees them is the first step in becoming more merciful.

B. Feel the need – “he had compassion on him”. Romans 12:15 tells us that we should have the ability to “weep with them that weep”. The second step is “putting yourself in their shoes”.

C. Respond to the need – “And went to him…and took care of him”. Seeing as God sees, feeling as God feels, and then responding by doing something is what being merciful is all about.

The bottom line is learning to love like Christ loved. Loving this way is not without its risks, however.

Quote: C.S. Lewis – “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. Not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

While the danger is great in loving, it is even greater in not loving for the mercy we receive is directly tied to the mercy we bestow.