The Beatitudes: The Merciful

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

It is reported that Mohandas Gandhi once told the British Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin: “When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries but those of the whole world.”

The word “blessed” (makarios) is defined to mean, “blessed, happy” (Thayer); “blessed, fortunate, happy usually in a sense of divine favor” (BAG).  True lasting happiness is found in a right relationship with God.

Blessed are the merciful.  The adjective “merciful” (elemon) refers to those who are “not simply possessed of pity but actively compassionate” (Vine’s).  It is from the noun “Mercy” (eleos) which is defined to mean “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (Vine’s);  “Kindness or goodwill toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them” (Thayer); “Mercy, compassion, clemency” (BAG).

“Mercy” is used in different ways in the Bible.  (1) It is used of God’s pity on the spiritually lost, and His forgiveness of sins.  Consider: “Have mercy upon me, O God,… blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1); “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13);  “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5); “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).  (2) It is sometimes used of compassionate help of those in physical need.  Consider: “He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he” (Proverbs 14:21); “‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?”  And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise'” (Luke 10:36-37).  (3) It is sometimes used of tender-hearted forgiveness.  Consider: “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion (same word) on your fellow servant, just as I had pity (same word) on you?'” (Luke 18:32-33).

Those who will be blessed care about other people.  They are beneficent and forgiving.  Consider: “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).  (1) They care about those who are in Spiritual need.  “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3 cf. Proverbs 11:30).  God’s people are to be involved in the lives of others.  Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness… Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).  James pointed out, “he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).  (2) They care about those who are in physical need.  Paul wrote, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).  John wrote, “Whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).  (3) They are forgiving of others.  Jesus said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).  We are told to pray “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).  Jesus taught, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him: and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4); moreover, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).  If we desire God’s forgiveness, then we must learn to be forgiving (Matthew  6:14-15; 18:21-35). We must not be like Jonah or the elder son, both of whom pouted over God’s forgiveness of others (Jonah 4; Luke 15: 25-32).

What should motivate one to so care about others?  The answer is at least two-fold. First, the love of God should motivate one.  Paul wrote, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32); “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).  John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us,  we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11); “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, Note – “Him” is missing in many manuscripts).  Jesus taught, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:32). Second, one should be motivated by judgement. They shall obtain mercy.  Hugo McCord comments, “Since nobody can go to the mansions being prepared unless God leans over and extends mercy, no unmerciful person will ever see the land of God” (McCord, Happiness Guaranteed, p. 39).  Dave Miller comments, “If a person cannot show mercy in this life, he will receive no mercy after this life (James 2:13).  On the other hand, if we will put our total trust in God and humbly bow to His will in our lives, we can eagerly anticipate the tender mercy of God (James 5:11)” (Editors Garland Elkins and Thomas Warren, The Book of Matthew, p. 198, Spiritual Sword Lectureship).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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