What Does It Mean to Be Merciful?

“The merciful man does good for his soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.”—Proverbs 11:17 (NKJV)


Perhaps you have a benefits package at your job that includes insurance, paid time off, and investments. The Lord has a benefit package as well! His package is wrapped in His love and His mercy.


Mercy has been defined as receiving what we do not deserve and withholding what we do deserve. The opposite of mercy is hostility and aggressiveness that is unforgiving and faultfinding.


A story is told of a boy and a judge. The boy gets into trouble, is arrested, and must appear in court. Remorseful, he is escorted into the courtroom. Sitting at the bench in the judge’s seat is the boy’s father. As he is brought before the bench, the sentence of his crime is read, and he is asked to plead guilty or not guilty. The boy replies, “Guilty, your Honor!” The judge then commands him to either pay the stiff fine or go to jail! The youngster is broken and has no means to pay the fine.


The judge, standing by the law, must fulfill the law so a penalty must be paid. The judge does something completely amazing. He gets up from his seat, takes off his robe, and comes down and stands beside the boy and pays the fine. “My son, your debt is paid in full. I love you!” he says.


God has done that merciful act for you and me. James said, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13 NKJV). Jeremiah declared, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV).


Since we have been given mercy and are continually shown mercy, we are instructed to do the same. Micah 6:8 says we ought to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.


So what does it mean to be merciful? Here are seven examples.


1. Mercy means being patient with people’s quirks.

2. Mercy means helping anyone you know who is hurting.

3. Mercy means giving people a second chance.

4. Mercy means doing good to those who hurt you.

5. Mercy means being kind to those who offend you.

6. Mercy means building bridges of love to difficult people.

7. Mercy means valuing relationships over rules.


We experience God’s benefits when we follow His example and do the right thing because showing mercy –loving your neighbor as yourself—is good for your soul (James 2:8).


DIG: Do you demonstrate mercy and compassion toward others? If not, what would you like to change?


DISCOVER: Some people say, “Well, I don’t have the gift of mercy!” Does that excuse a person from following the Lord’s example by being merciful like our Father in Heaven? (Luke 6:36)


DISPLAY: Start today by being intentional to show others the mercy you have received. Everyone needs it. Release people of their debt to you.

About the Author

Jeff Seward