Bread – Mercy

October 31, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, October 31, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 12:1-6; Luke 11:37-52; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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Jesus says today in the Gospel of Luke: “But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” Lk. 11:41

“Alms” is translated “charity” in the New American Standard Bible. The Greek word used is “eleĕmosunĕ,” which literally translates to “mercifulness,” which is the outward expression of character formed by having first received mercy. The giving of “alms” outpours from having received alms. We can love others because Christ first loved us.

But Jesus does not say give alms, what He says is “give as alms those things which are within.” Rephrased then, if I may take the liberty, Christ is saying to give everything we have internally (our heart, mind, and spirit) as love, as an expression of mercy which flows from our very character, having been transformed by God in His good pleasure by His Son once we repent, turn toward Him, acknowledge Him as the risen Savior, and accept the gift of mercy, forgiveness, and grace which He gives us.

That paraphrase is a mouthful. Essentially, Jesus is giving the Pharisees a task which they cannot achieve, because they do not have the character of mercy until they take on the mantle of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and He lives in them. Essentially, in saying the phrase “as alms,” Jesus is telling the Pharisees to be born again.

Will the Pharisees understand this – probably not because they are into works and not faith, into doings and not relationships.

We have another problem, though. Those people who are non-Christians may well be saying that this is baloney because they often exercise mercy toward others by giving of themselves and their wealth in response to perceived need. Interestingly enough, Greek contains another word for mercy, “oiktirmos,” which is the kind of mercy which does not come from a changed heart but from emotion, from sentiment. For the one word “mercy” in English, Greek has two words, one of which is mercy born of emotion and sentiment, and the other of which is born of character, of who we are. Jesus used the second word in His statement to the Pharisees, but Satan has developed a parallel concept which lacks the power of mercy outpouring from the character of the giver.

There is mercy which we show which comes from ourselves and there is another which comes from our new character in Christ. There is a mercy which derives from our deepest places, from who we are. And there is a mercy which derives from our feeling bad for the person we are showing mercy to. The gift to the recipient may look the same (after all a $100 is a $100), but we know it is not the same. That $100 in mercy which comes from our character is nothing to us because it is a reflection of Christ who lives within. That $100 in mercy which comes from our emotion and our sentiment is a loss to us, because it is coming out of our wallet.

So, are you exercising mercy in your dealings with others? If so, is it because you feel badly for them or is it because it is your character and you are a man or woman of integrity and act in line with your character? An old-fashioned way of asking the same question is whether the mercy you exercise comes from your mind (emotion, sentimentality) or your heart (your character)? When you give (if you give), do you wince over the loss from your bank account or do you just pass it on as a gift from the gift you have received from God?

If you are giving or showing mercy as oiktirmos and would like to acquire the change of heart which results in mercy being given by you as eleĕmosunĕ, then ask God for a heart-transplant, that Jesus may take His rightful position on the throne of your life as Savior, Redeemer, Lord and King.

If you are not giving or showing mercy to others, regardless of whether it comes from emotion or character, then check yourself out because you may be dead.

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*Today’s readings designate Ecclesiasticus, sometimes called the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach. This is not a book contained In the canonical Old Testament, but instead belongs to that body of work called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. These books are accepted by some Christian denominations as useful, but are rejected by other denominations. I have not included this reading today because of these controversies. However, if you want to read it, the reference for today is Ecclus. 28:14-26.

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© 2012 GBF

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