Happy the Merciful
THE merciful are not always the most intellectual, or the richest, or the mightiest, yet they have good reason to be happy. Why? Because, as Jesus says, “they will be shown mercy.”—Matt. 5:7.
“Mercy” comes from the Latin merces and is equivalent to the word misericordia. Actually, misericordia is two words: misereans, which means “showing pity,” and cor, meaning “heart.” When combined, these words mean “pain of heart.” The word “mercy,” therefore, implies a sympathetic sense of the suffering of another by which the heart is affected. It indicates entering into the miseries of others and kindly withholding just censure or punishment.
Mercy is an essential quality of God. He is called “the Father of tender mercies.” (2 Cor. 1:3) We are told that he delights in mercy and that “his mercies are over all his works.” (Ps. 145:9) When Jehovah allowed Adam and Eve to bring forth children after their willful disobedience and then provided a ransom so that believers among their offspring, though now imperfect, might gain eternal life, that was a display of divine mercy. The apostle Paul tells us that he tasted of God’s mercy in a special way, and in the same Bible chapter he calls this merciful God a “happy God.” (1 Tim. 1:11, 13-16) God is happy because he does not begrudge man his mercies but exhibits an overflowing munificence when being merciful.
Mercy in God calls for mercifulness in man. Human mercy must take the mercy of God as its model and inspiration. Jesus pointed this out when he told men that they should love their enemies, do good to those hating them, bless those cursing them, pray for those who do them injury, turn the other cheek to those who strike, give to those asking and lend without interest. Then he added: “Your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36) God is the Exemplar, and creatures are called on to copy him in showing kindness and mercy to others.
The primary motive for being merciful, whether to the guilty or to the needy, however, is not simply because we do not know how soon we ourselves might be in need of mercy; rather, it is and should be an expression of gratitude to God for the mercy he has bestowed on us. Our expressing mercy is a way of saying “thank you” to God.
WORKS OF MERCY
Jesus taught men to be merciful. This was not new, however, in Jesus’ day, because even in the days of Moses positive mercy toward an enemy was commanded: “Should you come upon your enemy’s bull or his ass going astray, you are to return it without fail to him. Should you see the ass of someone who hates you lying down under its load, then you must refrain from leaving him. With him you are without fail to get it loose.” (Ex. 23:4, 5) By thus calling attention to the matter of treating enemies with kindness when they are in distress, Jehovah was teaching man the need to be merciful to all under every circumstance. For surely if we are merciful to enemies, then how much more so will we be inclined to be merciful to friends, neighbors and those dear to us!—Rom. 12:17-21; Mic. 6:8.
Life is filled with opportunities to show mercy. A son breaks one of his father’s tools, but asks to be forgiven. The father shows mercy. A judge is moved by the tears of a weeping mother and suspends her sentence. A husband mistreats his wife and the wife her husband in moments of weakness. There is regret, then forgiveness and mercy. So many mistakes in life can be covered over by the quality of mercy.
Yet mercy has respect for authority, law and the glory of God. It seeks good, but it does not overlook laziness or ignore willful failures. There is no mercy in allowing a bad man to go on in badness. Mercy is not negligence.
True mercy considers more than one’s physical circumstances; it gives attention to one’s spiritual welfare. Jesus said: “It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all. The sayings that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63) So to instruct one’s fellowman in the sayings of Christ and his Kingdom good news, to strengthen the doubtful with his Word of truth, to comfort the sorrowful with his assurances of a resurrection and of life in the new world, are acts of mercy that are even greater than caring for the needs of the flesh.
Although you may not always be in position to perform deeds of mercy, it should not be forgotten that merciful words have power. “The calmness of the tongue is a tree of life.” (Prov. 15:4) When the Russian poet and reformer told a beggar: “Do not be angry with me, friend; I have nothing with me to give you!” the beggar replied: “You have already given me more than I deserve. You called me friend—that was a great gift.”
In addition, we ought to be merciful in our thoughts concerning others. Kind actions coupled with unkind thoughts are hypocrisy. They are counterfeits that bless no one. On the other hand, kind thoughts coupled with fine works bless all involved. Thinking and doing good are among the purest delights in the world. As Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Persons who forgive nothing—what mercy will be theirs? But God assures the one who shows mercy that mercy will be shown to him. What cause for happiness he has!