Summary: If we give mercy, we will get mercy.
We live in a world that gets but not gives. We want to receive but we don’t want to give. But our Lord Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Note that it is blessed to receive. Yet it is more blessed to give. We always want people to understand us. But we don’t always want to understand them. We always want people to listen to us. But we don’t always want to listen to them. This morning, we will talk about “What You Give Is What You Get.”
When Jesus declared, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” his listeners could not believe what they were hearing. For the Jews were under the oppressive rule of the merciless Roman Empire. “The Romans glorified justice, courage, discipline, and power—not mercy. They considered mercy to be a sign of weakness. When a child was born the father had the right of ‘patria potestas.’ If he wanted the child to live he held his thumb up; if he wanted it to die he held his thumb down. If he didn’t want the child to live it would be exposed or killed. Roman citizens could kill slaves they no longer wanted; there was no recourse. A husband could kill his wife if he wanted to. In our society as well as the one existing at the time of Christ’s earthly ministry it might have been more accurate to say that if you are merciful to others they will step on your neck!” But our Lord said, “Blessed [or happy] are the merciful…” Proverbs 11:17 says, “The merciful man does himself good, / But the cruel man does himself harm.” The one who gives mercy is as blessed as the one who receives it. The New Living Translation is more graphic: “Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.” So, the question is, “Do we want to help ourselves or do we want to hurt ourselves?”
That’s why we must YEARN to give that which we received from God. To have mercy is to have compassion or to have pity. But it is more than feeling sorry for others. You act upon what you feel. You reach out to people in need. Someone wrote that it is compassion in action. God did not just feel sorry about our sinful condition. He reached out to us. Titus 3:4-5 says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” That’s why we must give mercy. It is because we received mercy. May I ask, “Have you responded to God’s mercy? Have you accepted our Lord Jesus as your Savior?”
I always understood mercy as something different to justice. Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. We deserved to be punished for our sins. Instead, we received God’s mercy. So we must give it also.
The Greek word for the adjective “merciful” is used only twice in the New Testament. First, here in Matthew 5:7. Second, in Hebrews 2:17, “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Our Lord is described here as “merciful.” CHRIST is the best example of being merciful. He became man in order to serve as “a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God”. In other words, He came to act as the go-between between God and man. He left the comforts of heaven and experienced the cruelty of man so “that he might make atonement for the sins of the people,” that is, to offer Himself as a sacrifice to save us.
Even while on the cross, the most painful death a person could experience, Jesus had mercy on people. He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” To forgive people who don’t deserve it is an act of mercy. Forgiveness is one way of showing mercy on others. And our Lord modeled it for us on the cross.
Let us look at this aspect of mercy. Let us talk about forgiving others. Open your Bibles in Matthew 18:21-35. After teaching His disciples how to correct a person who sinned against them in verses 15-20, we then read in verse 21 that “Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’” The religious leaders at that time we can forgive a sin that is repeated three times. But after that, we need not forgive. The standing policy was “three strikes and you’re out!” Peter thought he was generous with going up to seven strikes.