In the big commercial world, the following scenario took place. Steve Jobs, who was the cofounder of Apple Corporation was extremely angry with Google. This was over what he referred to as the outright theft Apple’s iPhone technology. His biographer reported that the normally mild mannered Steve Jobs said this – “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death because they know they are guilty.”
They are words which have a very familiar ring to the unforgiving servant who found his fellow servant and took him by the throat and said, “pay me what you owe” – and had him thrown into prison until he paid the debt.
As it turned out, Steve Jobs did not live to fulfil his threat. But you can imagine how scary it would be, to have someone as rich and powerful as Steve Jobs threatening you with such fiery words. Very few things disturb us more, than to know we are on the end of someone’s threats. Some people are very good at making money, but know very little of how to show mercy.
Jesus said – “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Mercy ranges from showing kindness, like the good Samaritan, to forgiving a debt, like the unforgiving servant would not. The Bible says, when God gives people over to a debased mind, they become filled with all manner of unrighteousness, which is seen in the form of maliciousness; strife, haters of God, undiscerning, unloving, unforgiving, & unmerciful.”
We lived in Mackay for a few years. It wasn’t in this house. I just thought I would show you this, to make you envious for a second. We lived next door to a Headmaster of a Roman Catholic school. One day he discovered a stream of water leaking out of his lawn. He was convinced it was an underground spring, and commenced digging up his lawn to find the source. I suggested he was being somewhat hasty, and that it was likely a broken water main somewhere and he should call the council. He was not the most reasonable person to get along with, and he of course did not listen to me. As it turned out, I was right. It was a ruptured water pipe. But it was our ruptured water pipe. He ended up suing us for causing him to destroy his lawn. This of course made the rest of our stay in Mackay not so pleasant. There are few things more unpleasant than to be on the receiving end of an unmerciful person. “Blessed are the merciful…!” The world wants their pound of flesh. They want their wrongs all righted. From the world’s point of view, that is more important than showing mercy.
As we read in our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Lord is described in Psalm 86:5 as “…ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy.” That means, His table is always set with all the necessary ingredients to forgive us, and grant us mercy. He doesn’t need time to cool off – He is ready now. The table is prepared. And He calls us, who are His people, and who belong to His Kingdom, to manifest the same spirit. He gives us the same spirit.
“Blessed are the merciful…” (v. 7) You can see as we progress through the Beatitudes that the Lord gradually shifts from emphasizing our relationship with God to our relationship with other people: You remember the Lord begins with being ‘poor in spirit’ – which emphasises our lowliness before God, and progresses to meekness in V.5, which is our lowliness before others. Here in V.7 we have impressed upon us, our kindness to others. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”.
It is not saying that one can earn God’s mercy by showing mercy. The Bible says, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” We cannot earn God’s mercy. It is “not of works, least any man should boast.”
Our Lord is showing us here, as He does in all the Beatitudes, – He is showing us a description of the character of those who are born again – who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. He is not suggesting that if we only try to be poor in spirit, and mourn, and be meek, and try to be righteous & merciful, – that will get us into the Kingdom of Heaven. No one can make themself a Christian. We cannot earn God’s mercy to save us from sin by first showing mercy to others.
The Lord is simply declaring, “God’s people are merciful people – if there is anyone merciful in this world, it is a Christian; and merciful people are blessed, because being a Christian, they will receive mercy.”
A person is merciful only because God has changed them and made them merciful. It follows on naturally from the other Beatitudes. A Christian has a new nature. It begins by feeling their inner depravity; As Charles Wesley says in his hymn – “false and full of sin I am.” This is the starting point – “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” In their need, they mourn – and such find comfort in the gospel. They are lowly minded, and so meekness becomes a way of life. They hunger to walk with God, so desire righteousness above all things. It follows on, that having tasted the mercy of God, they will be willing to reflect the same image to the world – they will be merciful.
“For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the broken hearted.” They consider the needs of others immaterial in the pursuit of their own goals. I am sure you have met people like this. There are tyrants such as Stalin & Hitler who stand out as merciless persons, but less extreme examples are everywhere in our society, appearing as politicians, businessmen, – even Priests & church leaders; adulterous spouses, and abusive parents.
And if we would admit it, children can be some of the cruelest people in the world, and if they had the opportunity and power, there would be no bounds to their cruelty.
Ps 55:21 “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, But war was in his heart; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords.” They defend trees and whales and protest if we kill animals for meat, but they are heartless when it comes to protecting the unborn. They beg for the right of homosexuals to get married, but refuse to defend children from the perversion of a disrupted normal family life. Behind their kind concern, there is war in their heart. They are cruel and vicious.
But this is how we were, before God sovereignly converted us. We were like the wicked. Jesus said, “the wicked love them that love them back.” This is the way of the whole human race. They can often appear very merciful and generous, but they are only motivated by selfish and humanistic motives. They do what they do, not to glorify God or promote righteousness, but to glorify humanity. Sometimes it seems they imitate Christian mercy, but inwardly, they remain wicked and defiant against God.
For example, the NT instructs the church to collect money through the voluntary giving of its members, and distributes part of this wealth to those in need. We have done so ourselves. They who were needy were widows and orphans who had no other sources of help.
In our secular society, our laws rest on an unbiblical philosophy. Our government collects money by confiscating it. It is called taxation. And this money in turn is distributed to illegitimate recipients, such as people who refuse to work. What was once called “relief”, has today become “welfare,” and it is increasingly popular to call it “entitlement.” People on benefits often speak as if it is something owed to them.
Our welfare society has the appearance of mercy but it refuses the Biblical pattern of mercy it proves to be anything but mercy. It is destroying the aboriginal people of our country. It promotes the ‘dole bludger’ mentality. It is not mercy, when the aid they receive robs them of self respect; saps away their motivation; robs them of responsibility, and fosters the soul damning effect of laziness.
Scripture does not define mercy as something that demands us to help every apparently needy person regardless of the reason for his situation. As Christians, we are called to help only those who are truly in need, and not those who are simply lazy and irresponsible.
For example, Paul teaches that not every widow qualifies for church aid, but only if she is of a certain age, has been faithful to her husband, and is known for her good deeds (1 Timothy 5:9-10). Moreover, he writes, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat'” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). You know, that by following and applying these rules it would exclude many of the aboriginal community, and many people on disability pensions in our society from receiving aid.
But we can guarantee this – churches that follow these Scriptural precepts, and other related biblical instructions will certainly be called hard and merciless, even by many professing Christians. When Christians follow the Bible, and refuse to accommodate humanistic definitions of kindness and courtesy, they are often accused of denying the teaching and example of Christ. Friends, we should stand up to this, and be true to Scripture, and rebuke these people for their ignorance and disobedience toward Scripture. They pretend to show mercy – but it is not mercy.
True mercy is that which is exercised and expressed for the glory of God under the command of God. Humanistic mercy is no mercy at all; rather, it comes from a defiant heart that seeks to “save” humanity apart from God. Or if you like – they make a god of humanity.
Let us examine ourselves in the light of the true spirit of mercy. We are called to walk as our Lord Jesus walked. Peter says, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” 1Pe 2:21
In a moment, we are going to sing hymn 471 – the 2nd verse reads – “I must needs go on in the blood sprinkled way, the path that the Saviour trod, if I ever climb to the heights sublime, where the soul is at home with God.”
It is a ‘blood sprinkled way’ we walk. It involves suffering, just as our Lord suffered. If they hated Him for obeying the Scriptures, they will hate us. The rule of mercy that we follow, puts us out of step with the world’s rule of mercy. At times for us, it will involve sacrifice & criticism & great cost to us. We have to go on denying our self, even as our Lord did.
We may have to say “No” and refuse to contribute to some of the humanitarian movements of the world which use much of their finances to prepare and advertise expensive, emotional wrenching scenes of need & poverty; only to raise more money which adds to their huge bureaucratic empire.
They are more interested in their image, than ministering to peoples real need. In some situations they have bought huge shipments of cast off supplies, and dumped them in places inaccessible to the centre of need. Or they have been commandeered by terrorists.
We may need to seek out some of the less known missionary works, who care for the whole person; not just their bodies, but their souls also. That involves being responsible in showing mercy. Our hearts ought to break for the need around us, even as God’s heart breaks. We are His vessels. The Bible calls us “vessels of mercy”. We are first of all filled with His mercy. And He intends our cups to overflow, and to be poured out to touch the lives of others. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”