BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Matt 25:31-46 tells us what will happen when the Son of man, Jesus, will judge the nations. As Jesus said, at that time, all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He’ll separate them, one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats (verses 32-33).
From that story, we learn that the sheep – the righteous – are those who engaged in the acts of mercy, unlike the goats, who didn’t. The King will say to them, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (verses 34-36 NKJV). They’ll be surprised that they were credited with these deeds, prompting them to ask when they did them. “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (verse 40 NKJV). The answer is their acts of mercy.
To show mercy means to be kind, to be compassionate or to favour. Whereas the righteous will go into eternal life, the unrighteous, who had the same opportunity to show mercy but failed to utilize them, will enter into everlasting punishment. How do you become righteous? I’m not talking of self righteousness. Righteousness is through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Rom 10:10, 4:24; 2 Cor 5:21). If you’re born again, you should go and show mercy to others.
God demands acts of mercy
In Isa 58:6-9, God emphasizes on acts of mercy more than fasting that the Israelites were engaged in. He said the real fasting He desired from them was mercy. “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (NKJV)
Instead of showing mercy to the poor, the needy, the less privileged, these people were oppressing them while continuing with their religious activities claiming to be worshipping God. Of what use was such worship? Even today, it is easier for many people to play religion than to show mercy. This does not impress God.
Rounding off his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel told him, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, please listen to me. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past by being merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper” (Dan 4:27 NLT). Apparently, King Nebuchadnezzar did not heed Daniel’s words, and, twelve months after, God’s judgment came upon him.
Be merciful. Hos 6:6 says, “I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that’s more important than burnt offerings” (Hos 6:6 NLT). Jesus also referred to this scripture saying, “I want you to be merciful; I don’t want your sacrifices” (Matt 9:13 NLT).
One of the distinctive attributes of the children of God is mercy, because our Father is a merciful God; and the Bible says we should be merciful, as our father is merciful (Luke 6:36).
Jesus, full of compassion
Compassion is the key that unlocks God’s power for miracles. That’s why, on different occasions, we read that Jesus had compassion on the people before performing miracles (Matt 9:36, 14:14, 15:32; Mark 6:34, 8:2; Luke 7:12-13). When those who were blind, and lepers cried for his mercy, he healed them (Matt 9:27-31, 20:29-34; Luke 17:11-19; Mark 1:40-45).
Compare Jesus’ compassion and care to the behavior of irresponsible shepherds of Israel that Ezekiel spoke about. “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. [The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.] So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them’” (Ezek 34:1-6 NKJV).
The lack of mercy was not limited to the shepherds. As God pointed out in the same chapter, the people themselves didn’t show compassion to one another. Therefore, God said he would judge between sheep and sheep and between rams and goats (verse 17). He would even judge between the fat and the lean sheep (verse 20).
The Good Samaritan and his act of mercy
Prov 21:10 says, “Evil people love to harm others; their neighbors get no mercy from them” (NLT). Today, we talk about the Good Samaritan and not the Good Priest or Good Levite because it was the Good Samaritan who showed mercy to his neighbor – the man who was wounded by thieves and was in the pool of his blood. “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you’” (Luke 10:31-36 NKJV).
I believe the Good Samaritan, who took care of this injured man, wasn’t idle. He was also on a mission but he wasn’t too busy not to show mercy to someone whose life was in danger. But the priest and the Levite were probably so busy with religious activities that it was inconvenient for them to show mercy (Luke 10:29-37). But people are more important to God than programmes and projects.
What kind of religion do you profess when you’re callous? You have no compassion, you can’t show mercy. You should be a good neighbor; you should show mercy. Jesus asked the lawyer whom he actually told the story of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36 NKJV) The man answered Jesus, “He who showed mercy on him” (verse 37). Then, Jesus told him to go and do likewise; in other words, go and show mercy.
That instruction is for you, too. You’re a neighbor to anyone who needs your mercy; you’re a neighbor to anyone you can show kindness. You don’t have to know him before; you don’t have to be living close to each other. Go and show mercy.
The merciless, wicked steward
That merciless, wicked steward in Matt 18:24-35 who owed the king millions of dollars was forgiven his debt by the king when he pleaded more time to be allowed to pay all instead of being sold together with his wife and children as directed by the king. The king had mercy on him and cancelled his debt. Unfortunately, this steward had no mercy on a fellow servant who owed him only a few dollars. Despite the steward’s plea, he didn’t have mercy on him; he got him imprisoned. How could a man have received so much mercy yet became so callous?
David said, “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful” (2 Sam 22:26, NKJV). He repeats the same truth in Psalm 18:25. Jesus also emphasized this same truth in the New Testament. He said in the Beatitudes, “They are blessed who show mercy to others, for God will show mercy to them” (Matt 5:7 NCV).
Showing mercy is sowing seed
What you sow is what you’ll reap. If you cultivate the lifestyle of showing mercy to others, you’ll also obtain mercy. That’s why Rom 12:8 urges those who show mercy to do so with cheerfulness.
Show mercy to people with cheerfulness; do it with excitement. Have the understanding that you’re not doing it only because of them; you’re also doing it because of yourself. Prov 11:17 says, “The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh” (NKJV). The NCV puts it this way: “Kind people do themselves a favour but cruel people bring trouble on themselves.” When you show mercy to others, you’re actually doing yourself a favour. You’re sowing a seed. What you sow is what you’ll reap but you’re not expecting the harvest from those you’ve shown mercy. God knows when and how to reward you.
James 2:13 says, “For there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God’s mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you” (NLT). That was why after the king, in the story in Matt 18:24-35, was told what the merciless steward had done, he revisited his case and judged him without mercy. “Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison until he had paid every penny” (Matt 18:32-34 NLT).
That you’re strong does not mean you should blame those who’re weak, condemn them or be harsh towards them. Jude 22 says, “Show mercy to those whose faith is wavering” (NLT). That scripture doesn’t say criticize or ridicule them or be judgmental. It says show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Verse 23 adds that you should show mercy but be careful that you’re not contaminated by their sin.
Why should you show mercy?
1.Because God, your Father, is merciful. Mercy is one of the attributes of God the Bible talks about a lot. If you’re a true son of your Father, God, you should be merciful. “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36, NKJV). Psalm 103:8 says, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy” (NKJV). You should take after your Father by walking in mercy towards people.
Jesus was compassionate. You have a wrong identity if you have a reputation of not showing mercy. You should not lack a milk of human kindness. Kindness is part of the fruit of the Spirit, and kindness is one of the synonyms for mercy just like compassion.
2. Because you’ve obtained mercy from the Lord. So if you’ve obtained mercy, why shouldn’t you give? God says, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb 8:12 KJV). Rom 11:30 says, “Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the Jews refused his mercy, God was merciful to you instead” (NLT). When you also have mercy on people and pardon their wrongs, you’re telling God you’re not an ingrate, you appreciate His mercy towards you.
3. In order to be a blessing to others. Mercy shown to someone can change his life, can give him a push, can give him another chance to do things right, etc. The Bible says you should bless and not curse (Rom 12:14). Showing mercy is one way to bless others. When your life blesses others, it lifts them up; they become better than they are, and they’ll remember you for good.
4. So as to obtain mercy mercy. You’ll always need the mercy of God, and this goes beyond the issue of forgiveness of your sins. The phrase “Your mercy” is used Twenty-four times in the New King James Version of the Bible, in reference to the mercy of God. As I’ve said earlier, when you show mercy, you’re doing yourself a favour, you’re working for your own good, you’re helping yourself, you’re doing good for your soul, you’re positioning yourself for the mercy of God (2 Sam 22:26; Prov 11:17; Psalm 18:25). When you show mercy to others, people will show you mercy too when you need it.
God doesn’t forget the merciful. He rewards them at the appropriate time. The mercy they have shown others will speak for them; it will cry as a memorial before God as it did for Cornelius (Acts 10:4). When God is merciful to you, people will also show you mercy. The merciful will never be stranded. “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed” (Psalm 37:25-26 NKJV).
One of the reasons for the fall of Babylon was the failure to show mercy to the Israelites when God was angry with them and used Babylon to punish them. “For I was angry with my chosen people and began their punishment by letting them fall into your hands. But you, Babylon, showed them no mercy” (Isa 47:6 NLT). Because of this and other related sins, verse 5 says Babylon will never again be known as the queen of kingdoms. A great army would march against her from the North – that refers to Medo-Persian army – a cruel army that showed no mercy (Jer 50:41-42). Cyrus, king of Persia, overthrew Babylon to fulfill this prophecy and became the dominant word power.
Similarly, God accused Edom – the descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob, the ancestor of the Israelites– of showing Israel no mercy though they were relatives. “This is what the LORD says: ‘The people of Edom have sinned again and again, and I will not forget it. I will not let them go unpunished any longer! They chased down their relatives, the Israelites, with swords. They showed them no mercy and were unrelenting in their anger. So I will send down fire on Teman, and the fortresses of Bozrah will be destroyed’” (Amos 1:11-12 NLT). God didn’t expect Edom to be so callous to Israel since their ancestors both descended from same person, Isaac. In fact, during Israel’s journey in the wilderness, God forbade Israel from attacking the territory of the Edomites or possessing their land yet Edom could show Israel no mercy. “And command the people, saying, ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink’” (Deut 2:4-6 NKJV). For not showing mercy to Israel God punished Edom.
Precautions to take
The general rule is to show mercy to all but be led by the Spirit of God because we live in a wicked world and the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9 KJV) As you seek to show mercy, be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit of God; be discerning. This will save you from those with ulterior motive or hidden agenda, insincere people, and such people are very few, so you should not be afraid to show mercy.
Also ensure that you’re legally safe as you show mercy to others. For example, taking an abandoned or missing child home to take care of without taking legal precautions may result in a case of child abduction. Your good intention could be misconstrued. Therefore, the first thing to do may be to report to the police who will guide you properly on what to do.
There may also be cases that God doesn’t want you to be involved in. Obey the Lord. You can’t love people more than God does. For instance, the Lord told the children off Israel, ““When the LORD your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy” (Deut 7:2 NLT). Verse 16 reiterates the no-mercy command. The reason for the no-mercy instruction is clear – it was to protect the Israelites from the idolatry of those nations but they disobeyed God. Show mercy but don’t disobey the Holy Spirit.
Ahab, king of Israel spared the life of Ben-hadad, king of Syria who was brought to him by Ben-hadad’s servants who had told him the kings of Israel were merciful. Instead of killing him to round off Israel’s second defeat of Syria during his reign, he treated him like a brother, signed a treaty with him and set him free. But the Lord sent a prophet to tell him, “This is what the LORD says: Because you have spared the man I said must be destroyed, now you must die in his place, and your people will die instead of his people” (1 Kings 20:42 NLT). Just because Ben-hadad promised to return the towns his father had taken from Ahab’s father, and Ahab could establish places of trade in Damascus, as Ben-hadad’s father did in Samaria, Ahab showed mercy on a man God had appointed to utter destruction and he incurred God’s wrath for this. As you go and show mercy, don’t violate the voice of God.
Conclusion: Showing mercy is not free; it comes with a cost. There is a price to pay. Be ready to sacrifice. Be ready to inconvenient yourself. Don’t be too busy to be concerned about the lives of the hurting, the needy, etc. Don’t be like the Priest and the Levite. Be the Good Samaritan to someone, and the Lord shall reward you. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother” (Zech 7:9-10 NKJV).
If you’re not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus. I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I confess Jesus as my LORD and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you’ve said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You’ll need to join a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your area where you’ll be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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