Matthew 5:7 (New International Version)
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
This is a very, very straightforward message. No tricky words. No ambiguous translations. If you want to receive mercy, you need to show mercy. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus will tell a parable that powerfully illustrates this point. He says:
The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold— along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned— to pay the debt.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 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 to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
So very sad. But let’s consider an alternative version of this story… This is how it could have happened…
The servant, grateful for being shown such unexpected mercy, came upon his fellow servant and rushed up to embrace him. He told the man what had happened with the master, and then shocked him by saying that out of gratitude for the mercy he had received, he was now going to forgive his friend’s debt.
How happy the master would have been when the report of the servant’s action made its way back to him!
The truth is that we can never hope to fully pay back the mercy we have received from God. Our debt is just too large, and God’s grace too vast. No, we can’t pay it back. But, oh!, what a wonderful time we can have paying it forward to the people in our lives!
When you have expected to be punished, but were instead surprised to receive mercy?