“Let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”
1, 2. What does the parable of the neighborly Samaritan teach us about mercy?
WHILE speaking with Jesus, a man versed in the Law asked him: “Who really is my neighbor?” In reply, Jesus related the following parable: “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers, who both stripped him and inflicted blows, and went off, leaving him half-dead. Now, by coincidence, a certain priest was going down over that road, but, when he saw him, he went by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he got down to the place and saw him, went by on the opposite side. But a certain Samaritan traveling the road came upon him and, at seeing him, he was moved with pity. So he approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here.’” Next, Jesus asked his listener: “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” The man answered: “The one that acted mercifully toward him.”
2 How vividly the Samaritan’s treatment of the injured man illustrates what true mercy is! Moved by a feeling of pity, or compassion, the Samaritan acted in a way that brought relief to the victim. Moreover, the man in need was a stranger to the Samaritan. Mercy is not hindered by national, religious, or cultural barriers. After giving the illustration about the neighborly Samaritan, Jesus advised his listener: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.” (Luke 10:37b) We can take that admonition to heart and strive to be merciful to others. But how? In what ways can we practice mercy in our everyday life?
“If a Brother . . . Is in a Naked State”
3, 4. Why should we be especially concerned about practicing mercy within the Christian congregation?
3 “As long as we have time favorable for it,” said the apostle Paul, “let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Let us, then, first consider how we can abound in deeds of mercy toward those related to us in the faith.
4 Exhorting true Christians to be merciful to one another, the disciple James wrote: “The one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy.” (James 2:13) The context of these inspired words tells us some ways in which we can practice mercy. At James 1:27, for example, we read: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” James 2:15, 16 states: “If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them the necessities for their body, of what benefit is it?”
5, 6. How may we abound in deeds of mercy in our association with the local congregation?
5 Caring for others and helping those in need is a feature of true religion. Our way of worship does not allow us to limit our concern for others to a mere oral expression of the wish that everything will turn out well for them. Rather, a tender feeling of compassion moves us to act in behalf of those in serious need. (1 John 3:17, 18) Yes, preparing a meal for a sick person, assisting an elderly one with chores, providing transportation to Christian meetings when necessary, and not being closefisted toward deserving ones are among the deeds of mercy we should abound in.
6 Of greater importance than giving materially is giving spiritually to assist members of the expanding Christian congregation. We are exhorted to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) “The aged women” are encouraged to be “teachers of what is good.” (Titus 2:3) Concerning Christian overseers, the Bible states: “Each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm.”
7. From the disciples in Syrian Antioch, what do we learn about displaying mercy?
7 In addition to caring for widows, orphans, and those in need of assistance and encouragement locally, the first-century congregations at times organized relief measures in behalf of believers in other places. For example, when the prophet Agabus foretold that “a great famine was about to come upon the entire inhabited earth,” the disciples in Syrian Antioch “determined, each of them according as anyone could afford it, to send a relief ministration to the brothers dwelling in Judea.” This was dispatched to the elders there “by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.” (Acts 11:28-30) What about today? “The faithful and discreet slave” has organized relief committees to care for our brothers who may be affected by natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, or tsunamis. (Matthew 24:45) Voluntarily contributing our time, effort, and resources in cooperation with this arrangement is a fine way for us to display mercy.
“If You Continue Showing Favoritism”
8. How does favoritism work against mercy?
8 Warning about a characteristic that works against mercy and “the kingly law” of love, James wrote: “If you continue showing favoritism, you are working a sin, for you are reproved by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:8, 9) Showing undue favor to the materially rich or to those having prominence can make us less sensitive to “the complaining cry of the lowly one.” (Proverbs 21:13) Favoritism stifles a merciful spirit. We practice mercy by treating others impartially.
9. Why is it not wrong to show special consideration to deserving ones?
9 Does being impartial mean that we should never show special consideration to anyone? Hardly. Concerning his fellow worker Epaphroditus, the apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Philippi: “Keep holding men of that sort dear.” Why? “Because on account of the Lord’s work he came quite near to death, exposing his soul to danger, that he might fully make up for your not being here to render private service to me.” (Philippians 2:25, 29, 30) The faithful service rendered by Epaphroditus deserved recognition. Moreover, at 1 Timothy 5:17, we read: “Let the older men who preside in a fine way be reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.” Good spiritual qualities also merit acknowledgment. Showing such consideration is not favoritism.
“The Wisdom From Above Is . . . Full of Mercy”
10. Why should we control our tongue?
10 Concerning the tongue, James said: “An unruly injurious thing, it is full of death-dealing poison. With it we bless Jehovah, even the Father, and yet with it we curse men who have come into existence ‘in the likeness of God.’ Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing.” In this context, James added: “If you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are. But the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”
11. How can we be merciful in the use of our tongue?
11 Hence, the way we use our tongue is an indication of whether we have the wisdom that is “full of mercy.” What if because of jealousy or contentiousness we were to boast, lie, or spread harmful gossip? Psalm 94:4 states: “All the practicers of what is hurtful keep bragging about themselves.” And how quickly injurious talk can damage an innocent one’s good reputation! (Psalm 64:2-4) Moreover, think of the harm that can be done by “a false witness [who] launches forth mere lies.” (Proverbs 14:5; 1 Kings 21:7-13) After discussing the misuse of the tongue, James says: “It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way.” (James 3:10b) True mercy requires that we use our tongue in a chaste, peaceable, and reasonable way. Jesus said: “I tell you that every unprofitable saying that men speak, they will render an account concerning it on Judgment Day.” (Matthew 12:36) How important it is that we be merciful in the use of our tongue!
“Forgive Men Their Trespasses”
12, 13. (a) What do we learn about mercy from the parable of the slave who owed his master a large sum of money? (b) What does it mean to forgive our brother “up to seventy-seven times”?
12 Jesus’ parable of the slave who owed his master, a king, 60,000,000 denarii shows another way to be merciful. Having no means to pay the debt, the slave begged for mercy. “Moved to pity at this,” the master of the slave forgave his debt. But the slave went out and found a fellow slave who owed him only a hundred denarii and mercilessly had him thrown into prison. When the master heard what had happened, he summoned the forgiven slave and said to 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?” With that the master had him delivered to the jailers. Jesus concluded the parable, saying: “In like manner my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.”
13 How forcefully the above-mentioned parable points out that mercy includes a readiness to forgive! Jehovah has forgiven us a huge debt of sin. Should we not also “forgive men their trespasses”? (Matthew 6:14, 15) Before Jesus related the parable about the merciless slave, Peter asked him: “Lord, how many times is my brother to sin against me and am I to forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus replied: “I say to you, not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21, 22) Yes, a merciful person is ready to forgive “up to seventy-seven times,” that is, without limit.
14. According to Matthew 7:1-4, how may we practice mercy daily?
14 Showing still another way to display mercy, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged . . . Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-4) Therefore, we can practice mercy daily by putting up with the weaknesses of others without being judgmental or overly critical.
“Work What Is Good Toward All”
15. Why are acts of mercy not limited to fellow believers?
15 While the Bible book of James highlights mercy among believers, this does not mean that acts of mercy are limited to those within the Christian congregation. “Jehovah is good to all,” says Psalm 145:9, “and his mercies are over all his works.” We are exhorted to “become imitators of God” and to “work what is good toward all.” (Ephesians 5:1; Galatians 6:10) While we do not love “either the world or the things in the world,” we are not insensitive to the needs of those in the world.
16. What factors affect the way we show mercy to others?
16 As Christians, we do not hesitate to provide whatever help we can to victims of “unforeseen occurrence” or to those in dire situations. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Of course, circumstances would dictate what we can do and how much. (Proverbs 3:27) When providing material help to others, we want to be careful that a deed that seems good does not promote laziness. (Proverbs 20:1, 4; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) Hence, a true act of mercy is a response that combines tender feelings of compassion or sympathy with sound reasoning.
17. What is the finest way to show mercy to those outside the Christian congregation?
17 The finest way to show mercy to those outside the Christian congregation is to share Bible truth with them. Why? Because the majority of mankind today are groping about in spiritual darkness. Having no way to deal with problems that confront them nor any real hope for the future, most people are “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) The message of God’s Word can be ‘a lamp to their foot,’ helping them to deal with life’s problems. It can also be ‘a light to their roadway’ in that the Bible foretells God’s purpose for the future, giving them a basis for having a bright hope. (Psalm 119:105) What a privilege it is to carry the wonderful message of truth to those who are in dire need of it! In view of the nearness of the impending “great tribulation,” now is the time to have a zealous share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. (Matthew 24:3-8, 21, 22, 36-41; 28:19, 20) No other act of mercy is as important.
Give “the Things That Are Inside”
18, 19. Why should we work to increase the influence that mercy has on our lives?
18 “Give as gifts of mercy the things that are inside,” said Jesus. (Luke 11:41) For a good deed to be an act of true mercy, it must be a gift that comes from inside
19 Let us, then, work to increase the influence that mercy has on our lives. The more merciful we are, the more we become like God. This helps us lead a truly meaningful and satisfying life.
What Did You Learn?
• Why is it especially important to be merciful to fellow believers?
• How can we practice mercy within the Christian congregation?
• How may we work what is good toward those outside the congregation?
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The Samaritan acted mercifully
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Christians abound in acts of mercy
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The finest way to show mercy to those outside the congregation is to share Bible truth with them