“Your Word Is Truth”
Happy the Merciful—They Will Be Shown Mercy’
THERE is a saying, “Virtue is its own reward.” That saying is well meant, for he who is virtuous with an eye to material reward is not really virtuous. However, God’s Word assures us that Jehovah God also rewards virtue, that is, goodness and right doing. In fact, the apostle Paul states that to please God we must believe not only that He exists but that He rewards those earnestly seeking Him. (Heb. 11:6) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made the same point in his Sermon on the Mount when he said: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.”—Matt. 5:7.
To many persons the word “mercy” has only the legal sense of not exacting the full penalty that justice requires. Thus to commute a death sentence to one of life imprisonment is deemed an act of mercy. God’s Word often uses “mercy” with this connotation. But “mercy” has also another meaning, that of showing kindness or compassion, consideration to deserving or needy ones, and it is with this meaning that the word “mercy” is used most frequently in the Bible, in both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.
When Jesus, in connection with his parable of the Good Samaritan, asked which one “made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers,” he was answered, “The one that acted mercifully toward him.” Obviously, here it was a matter not of tempering justice with leniency or being forgiving, but rather of showing compassion to a victim of misfortune, the man who had been beaten and robbed. (Luke 10:36, 37) And so we repeatedly find in the Gospels that victims of misfortune or those in need begged Jesus to have mercy on them, not having in mind that he should forgive them, should exact less than justice from them, but that he should relieve them of their sufferings.
Does God truly show mercy to those who are thus merciful? Historical facts show that what God’s Word says about this is truth. A striking example of how God showed mercy in the sense of compassion to one who had shown this quality is seen in the Bible record of Tabitha or Dorcas. It tells us that she “abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy” to the poor. When she happened to fall sick and die, those who had benefited from her mercies sent for the apostle Peter. He, by means of God’s holy spirit, was able to bring her back to life—certainly a great mercy to her.—Acts 9:36-43.
Another example of the application of Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:7 is seen in the case of Cornelius, a Roman officer living in Caesarea. He was ‘devout and fearing God and made many gifts of mercy to the Jews as well as praying to God continually.’ God showed him consideration; He answered his prayers. God rewarded him for the mercies he had shown by allowing him to become the first Gentile convert to true Christianity. This meant that the merits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice were applied on his behalf, he became a spirit-begotten follower of Jesus Christ and had the hope set before him of everlasting life in the heavens.—Acts 10:1, 2, 42-48.
Jehovah God, in his great love, consideration and compassion, causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon the wicked and the righteous. And “by God’s undeserved kindness” not only did Jesus “taste death for every man” but God made provision that “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out,” “both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Heb. 2:9; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15) But to benefit fully from God’s undeserved kindnesses, to continue to enjoy them, to keep on being the recipients of his mercies, persons must also be merciful. They must make it a practice to show kindness or compassion to their fellowman.
Jesus’ illustration of the sheep and goats as found at Matthew 25:31-46, and which parable is having fulfillment in our day, makes a similar point regarding the importance of mercy. Therein Jesus tells of some, the sheeplike ones, who showed many kindnesses, mercies, who manifested compassion to him in that they did so to his “brothers.” How did they show such merciful compassion? By feeding Christ’s spiritual brothers when hungry, clothing them when in need of covering, visiting them when sick and when in prison. Because of having done all these things Jesus says they will be shown kindness, favor and consideration: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” And in particular will they be shown compassion in that God will protect them in the day of his anger.
Within the Christian congregation as well as within one’s family circle there are also opportunities to show mercy. There may be some who are depressed, discouraged, timid or shy. To “speak consolingly to the depressed souls” is indeed extending mercy, and in doing so one can expect to receive mercy in that “the generous soul will itself be made fat, and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.” (1 Thess. 5:14; Prov. 11:25) Not that such gifts of mercy are limited to spiritual things. As the apostle John shows, Christians are also to show love by giving of material things to fellow Christians in need. Do you do that?—1 John 3:17, 18.
Christians are to be willing to show mercy to one another, and they are also counseled to do it cheerfully. “He that shows mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness,” wrote the apostle Paul. Yes, they are to do this, “not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Showing mercy with cheerfulness is a mercy, a kindness; it shows compassion in itself because it makes the acceptance of the mercy more pleasant. Can we help a fellow Christian who needs upbuilding spiritually or who has fallen into need materially?—Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 9:7.
In addition to receiving mercy from Jehovah God for showing mercy we can also hope to receive mercy from those to whom we have shown mercy when the ‘shoe is on the other foot,’ as the saying goes. This is indicated by Jesus’ words: “Practice giving, and people will give to you.”—Luke 6:38.
Along with our showing compassion and kindnesses to needy ones, either spiritually or in a material way, our mercy should, of course, include being forgiving. Thus Jesus in one of his parables has the master say to a slave who had been forgiven a large sum he owed but refused to forgive a small debt owed him: “Wicked slave, I canceled all that debt for you, when you entreated me. Ought you not, in turn, to have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I also had mercy on you?” In conclusion Jesus said: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.” Events due to take place in the very near future will prove unmistakably that in this, too, what the Bible says is the truth.—Matt. 18:23-35.