7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
A “churchy” word that gets used a lot but understood little is the word mercy. This word has been woven into the fabric of colloquial speech in America for decades. From John Stamos’ character on Full House to the word we use when we recognize we have lost an arm wrestling match, we use the word “mercy” in a way that makes it lose its meaning. The original Greek word eleeo is defined as, “to help one afflicted or seeking aid, to bring help to the wretched.” In biblical terms, we can say that God had mercy upon us by sending His son to die for our sinfulness, but do we understand the depth of His mercy? More so, do we understand what He is calling us to be when He says we should be merciful? James 1 says the same thing this way:
27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
You might think he is discussing a different topic in regards to religion, but really he is explaining that being merciful is what we are called to do here on earth as followers of Christ. Jesus had mercy on the wretched. The religious elite of His time looked down upon “sinners” instead of having compassion for them. The Pharisees used the poor and needy as a way to boast their own socioeconomic status in the eyes of the people by showing off how much they helped the poor. They were being selfish, even though they gave to the poor, instead of merciful. Jesus will talk about this more in depth in His sermon, but for right now let us see what mercy there is in our own lives.
So far, we have walked through the steps of being spiritually poor, tearful, meek, and righteous. All of these have revolved around us. Jesus calls us to first look at our own state of being and undergo a spiritual transformation so that when He calls us to have mercy upon others, it comes naturally to us. It is easy to be merciful to others when we recognize the mercy we have received. When we have come to the point of understanding that God’s amazing grace is something we don’t deserve, it is easier to extend it to others. When we recognize how wretched we were (or maybe still are) but He still loves us anyway, it is easier for us to be able to be merciful to the wretched. I don’t want to jump too far ahead in the sermon because Jesus expounds upon the principle of receiving the same kind of treatment you give to others…but notice how He tells us that the merciful will receive mercy. He doesn’t say that we will receive mercy in order to be merciful.
What Jesus doesn’t say is to be the most merciful person in the world. If we arrive to this point (keeping with the idea of walking the steps of the beatitudes), we might have the capacity to be merciful to an extent but not fully like Jesus. That’s ok! He doesn’t call us to be perfect (well, not yet anyway) and so He is just telling us to give what we have. God’s blessings work by refilling what we have already given. It’s like a business expense in that we don’t get an advance, we get reimbursed for what we spent and then a little more so we can spend more next time. It is just like the parable of the talents where God gives us a little bit and if we invest it wisely, we will receive recompense and more.
The interesting part about this system is that if we recognize we need something, we know what we must do! If we want more mercy, we must give more mercy. If we want more love, we must give more love. If we want more money, we must give more money! The key is that when we do these things, we must do them with the heart of serving and honoring God and others, not ourselves. If we just want to get rich so we can store up more money for ourselves, giving our tithes and offerings isn’t going to do a whole lot. Jesus is showing us how life works in God’s Kingdom and this is a system we cannot manipulate because He knows our hearts.