Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the Merciful


Matthew 5:7



Matthew tells us in his Gospel that Jesus was going about in the cities and villages teaching and proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. As He looked over the multitudes that were gathering around Him “He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus was putting into action those deep feelings of compassion for the sad and pitiful state in which He saw the people. The original word suggests strong emotion; it means, “to feel deep sympathy.” He not only felt compassion but also He reached out with those deep feelings to touch people in their deepest needs.


Let’s face it, we live in a day when “winner-takes-all” and “whoever-dies-with-all-the-toys-wins” philosophy rebels at the idea of “mercy.”

People are treated like things where power is supreme and personal success is the chief end of man. If you practice mercy in our highly competitive society you are the real loser. How do we put into practice the words of Jesus when He said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”?


The first 4 Beatitudes express our total dependence upon God and the next three are the outworking in everyday life of that dependence upon Him.



Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

A definition of merciful

The word “merciful,” is defined as: “good will towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them.” [Thayer] It not only means to feel deeply but is also a word of action.


The word for “merciful” indicates being moved to pity and compassion by a tragedy and includes the fear that this could happen to me as well. There but for the grace of God, go I. But as always this word goes further. Having a feeling of sorrow over someone’s bad situation I now want to try to do something about it.


William Barclay noted the Hebrew word (chesedh) for “merciful” has the idea of “the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.”


A lifestyle of being merciful

The emphasis is on those who are inclined to show mercy, not those who occasionally show mercy. It is a habitual action. As Leon Morris observes, “These are people who show by their habitual merciful deeds that they have responded to God’s love and are living by His grace. They will receive mercy on the last day”


There is an eschatological [explain!] application in this verse: People who show mercy to others will have mercy shown to them on judgement day. The person who does not show mercy cannot count on God’s mercy. The emphasis in our text is “God will be merciful to them.” That is the eschatological blessing in the beatitude. God will take pity on them, or will forgive them, or will show mercy on them.


A self–acting law of mercy

Robert Nicoll explains, “This Beatitude states a self-acting law of the moral world. The exercise of mercy, active pity, tends to elicit mercy from others––God and men.”



God has shown mercy toward guilty sinners

“God in His grace gives me what I do not deserve, and in His mercy He does not give me what I do deserve”.


God has the power and authority to deal with us in His righteousness. We deserve eternal punishment. He does not give us what we deserve; He treats us with mercy. God does not give us what we deserve; yet there is no mercy apart from justice. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sin. “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus in His love died for us paying our sin debt to the righteousness of God. God has demonstrated His mercy toward us on the basis of the vicarious substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for our sins. Now He demonstrates mercy to the guilty sinner.

Jesus showed mercy at the cross when He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).


ILLUS.: Good Samaritan – Luke 10: Jesus told story to a Jewish lawyer who trying to justify himself. A man was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and robbers assaulted him and stripped him of his clothing and possessions and beat him and left him half dead.

A priest and a Levite {religious types}each came down the road, saw the man lying there and they crossed on the other side. Later a Samaritan [Despised as half breeds by the Jews] came upon the bleeding man, and saw him and felt compassion. Instead of walking on by and doing nothing he took the poor man and bandaged him up put him on his own beast and took him to a Travel Inn and took care of him. When it came time for the businessman to go on his journey he told the innkeeper, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you” (v. 35). Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” His listener replied correctly, “The one who showed mercy toward him. And Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same” (vv. 36-37).


Nothing proves that we have been forgiven better than our own readiness to forgive.

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Peter had been putting some hard thought into that question. Jesus responded, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22).


Parable about an unmerciful servant in Matt.18:Who having had his debt of millions cancelled by his merciful Master goes and throws into prison a fellow servant who own him a few pounds. His master, the King, is incensed and punishes him severely.


How much do we own God and he forgives us in Christ. How little, by comparison to others owe us – how merciful are we?


Jesus said in the context is talking about loving our enemies. Luke 6:36-38 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)


The exercise of showing mercy tends to elicit mercy from others. “You get back what you give.” Our worldly wisdom says “You get what you keep for yourself!”



We get back both negative and positive attitudes and behaviours

We see this in the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge (krino, meaning to separate, critic, criticise, criticism, discriminate) lest you be judged yourselves. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you.”


The opposite of mercy is hostility. This attitude produces bitterness, resentment, and anger on the part of others. It is a critical spirit that expresses itself in stingyness,  unforgiveness, condemning, judging, faultfinding attitudes and behaviour.

We parrot back what we get. We also give people what they expect from us.


ILLUS.: Did you hear about the man who drove a concrete mixer truck for a living? One day he went to pick up his load of concrete and discovered that he had forgotten his wallet at home. So he drove back to his house after he loaded up his mixer. When he got there he saw a brand new black BMW parked in front of his house. He wondered who was visiting this early in the morning. So he quietly walked in and discovered his wife in bed with another man. In sheer shock he thought should I shoot them! Gathering up his thoughts, he composed himself and walked out of the house and as he did he eyed that beautiful new BMW in his driveway and thought for a moment.

He backed up his concrete mixer and rolled down the windows of the car and poured it full of wet cement! Can you imagine what the man fooling around with his wife thought when he went outside and saw his car? Imagine the pictures in the front page of the newspaper!


That is the negative side of this principle in action. We tend to give back what we receive in life. Each person gets back what he gives. We get the kind of reaction back from others that we give out.


ILLUS.: There were a group of U. S. soldiers living in their own rented house in South Korea after the fierce conflict there. They had a houseboy working for them and they would play terrible practical jokes on him. They would put a bucket of water on the top of a slightly ajar door and he would open it and the water would come down on him getting him wet and making a mess of everything. He would have to clean it up, of course. They would put grease on the knobs on his stove making them slippery. They would dump dirt on the floor or track mud in on their feet. It just went on and on and this little Korean guy would just smile and nod and keep on going whistling a happy tune.

One day these GI’s could stand it no more and got to feel really bay about their behavior. No matter what they did he just took it and never got angry. It finally got to them. So they decided to go to him and apologise.

They told him that they had not treated him well and they were never going to do it again. They really meant business. He had, “no more water on top of door?” They said “no, no more.” “He said no more grease on knobs.” They said, “no, no more grease.” He said, “no more dirt on floor?” “No, no more,” they said.

The Korea replied with the big happy smile across his face: “OK, then no more spit in soup!”

Yes, we give back what we get.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. … For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:36-38).


What am I sowing and giving? Hostility or kindness, hate or goodness, revenge, or peace? Generally people give back to us what we give to them.


Our attitudes and emotions are contagious. If we are critical and grumpy with others that’s how they tend to treat us. Happy attitude invites happiness ILLUS.: NY Bus-driver  – cheerful and chatty – passenger that got on grumpy later got off with a smile and a cheery ‘goodbye’. We get the kind of reaction back from others that we give out.”

What about those to whom we show mercy, but we receive just the opposite in return?

The mature Christian gives what others need, not what they deserve.

In the context of Luke 6:36-38 Jesus had just mentioned seven aspects of unconditional love. We by nature give back what we get; therefore all of these proactive behaviours require supernatural enabling.

(1) Love your enemies.

(2) Do good to those who hate you.

(3) Bless those who curse you.

(4) Pray for those who mistreat you.

(5) Do not retaliate (v. 29a).

(6) Give freely (vv. 29b-30).

(7) Treat others the way you want to be treated (v. 31).


Jesus then taught His followers a fundamental principle of the universe—what one sows he will reap (v. 36-38).


The Spirit-controlled person has the inner power to love the offender and demonstrate mercy. God chose to forgive us and show His mercy to us on the basis of the death of Christ, and now we can choose to demonstrate that same kind of mercy to those who “sin” against us. It is a gift of God.

Joseph [many-coloured-coat Jo] who was the victim of jealousy among his siblings, sold into slavery, thrown into prison and forced to live in a foreign country. If you had the power of the prime Minister of Egypt years later when his brothers arrived begging for food and they did to you what they had done to him, how would you have treated them?

…let them know what it is like to rot in an Egyptian prison.


If I am a forgiven sinner who has experienced God’s mercy at Calvary, I can now choose to extend mercy to the unmerciful.

Francis of Assisi expressed this principle beautifully …

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me show love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not
So much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying
That we are born to eternal life.


Only with the help of God’s Holy Spirit can we take what people give to us and turn it around and give them what they need instead of what they deserve. I can’t do it. You can’t do it in your own power. It has to be God at work in us. As we hand over to Him the hostility and hatred we receive from others we can give them what they need––unmerited love and grace.

1. We choose to forgive.

2. We choose to seek what is in their highest good.

3. We respect their choices in life.

4. It is not something we do out of our own strength, but God does it through us.

Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – in NT ..  “every one be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19).



How can I show mercy to a Christian caught in some sin?

What is my attitude to those less fortunate than myself?

Who am I to condemn another person?

When I forgive someone, do I choose to forget?

Do I have a tendency to treat people like things or objects?

Do I tend to give people what I THINK they deserve?

Do I use power or position I have to hurt others who hurt me?


. . . By its very definition, mercy cannot be earned any more than grace can be earned.

The Beatitude is saying: “When you experience mercy, and share mercy, then your heart is in such a condition that you can receive more mercy to share with others.”

In other words, Jesus is not asking us to be merciful occasionally; he is asking us to be constant channels of mercy. “Give, and it shall be given unto you” (Luke 6:38).



The Christian is surrounded by mercy.

Back in OT “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).

To the future Jude 21––”Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

Each new day: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

. . . How thrilling it is to go through life sharing God’s mercy and not having to judge people to see if they are “worthy” of what we have to offer. We stop looking at the externals and begin to see people through the merciful eyes of Christ. . . . (Live Like a King! pp. 105-06).


Wil Pounds (c) 1999.

J R W Stott – Christian Counter Culture.

D M Lloyd-Jones – Studies in the sermon on the mount.

D A Carson – Sermon on the mount

W W Wiersbe “Be ……..”

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