"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).
Mercy is a characteristic of true believers.
Like the other beatitudes, Matthew 5:7 contains a twofold message: to enter the kingdom you must seek mercy. Once there, you must show mercy to others.
The thought of showing mercy probably surprised Christ's audience because both the Jews and the Romans tended to be merciless. The Romans exalted justice, courage, discipline, and power. To them mercy was a sign of weakness. For example, if a Roman father wanted his newborn child to live, he simply held his thumb up; if he wanted it to die, he held his thumb down.
Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for their egotistical, self-righteous, and condemning attitudes. They were intolerant of anyone who failed to live by their traditions. They even withheld financial support from their own needy parents (Matt. 15:3-9).
Like the people of Jesus' time, many people today also lack mercy. Some are outright cruel and unkind, but most are so consumed with their quest for self-gratification that they simply neglect others.
Christians, on the other hand, should be characterized by mercy. In fact, James used mercy to illustrate true faith: "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (James 2:14- 17). He also said mercy is characteristic of godly wisdom: "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (3:17).
As one who has received mercy from God, let mercy be the hallmark of your life.
Suggestions for Prayer
- Thank God for His great mercy.
- Ask Him to give you opportunities to show mercy to others today.
For Further Study
Read Luke 10:25-37.
- Who questioned Jesus and what was his motive?
- What characteristics of mercy were demonstrated by the Samaritan traveler?
- What challenge did Jesus give His hearer? Are you willing to meet that challenge?