Summary: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

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The Benefits of Showing Mercy

One day, a woman who occasionally walked through the park after work, stopped to have her picture taken by a photographer. She was very excited to get the Polaroid print but when she looked at it, her face dropped. She turned to the photographer and stated rather sharply, “This is not right! This is not right! You have done me no justice!” The man looked at the picture and then looked at her and said, “Miss, you don’t need justice…what you need is mercy!”

That leads us to the fifth beatitude found in Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” The word “blessed” as used in the Messiah’s message means much more than “happy.” It has the idea of being “congratulated” or “completed” or “fulfilled.” If we listen carefully, we can hear the applause of heaven when we put into practice these eight character qualities, or “be-attitudes.” As we look at what it means to be merciful, we come to a transition from the first four, which focus on our need – we are bankrupt in spirit, and broken with grief, which leads to meekness and an insatiable hunger for righteousness. We now move from our need, to what we need to do; from belief to behavior; from our situation to our responsibility.

The Meaning of Mercy

The principal Hebrew word for mercy speaks of an emotional response to the needs of others. It means to feel the pain of another so deeply that we’re compelled to do something about it. In fact, people in Bible times believed that the seat of emotions was found in the intestinal area. That’s why the King James Version uses the phrase, “bowels of mercy.” William Barclay defines mercy this way: “To get inside someone’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings; to move in and act on behalf of those who are hurting.” Mercy can be defined as: “good will toward the afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them.”

This idea is captured in Matthew 14:14: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” The word “compassion” means that Jesus was so moved that His stomach churned, or literally, “his bowels yearned” for the crowd. Notice that this churning led Him to do something about it. He saw the need and then He went into action. Mercy in theory is absolutely meaningless. Mercy must move us. In addition, the emphasis in this beatitude is on those who are inclined to show mercy as a lifestyle, not those who are merciful on an occasional basis. I like Chuck Swindoll’s definition: “Mercy is God’s ministry to the miserable.”

We often use the words “grace” and “mercy” interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings.

Grace Mercy

Undeserved and unmerited favor Compassionate action

Gives us what we don’t deserve Withholds what we do deserve

The opposite of mercy is hostility and aggressiveness that expresses itself in an unforgiving and faultfinding spirit.

Master of Mercy

In one of his books, Bill Bright wrote this, “God is the grand master of mercy. His very nature desires to relieve us of the self-imposed misery and distress we experience because of our sin” (“God,” New Life Publications, 1999, page 232). Mercy is a God-like characteristic and Scripture is filled with references to this part of His innate nature:

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