Our Savior is a God of mercy, grace and justice. He delights in disseminating his blessings to those in need. Indeed, he receives great glory when our actions of mercy point to his provision. We are called upon as disciples of Christ to provide the mercy of Christ to the hungry, sick and homeless. Withholding the mercy of Christ from the needy is not our choice to make.
Wicked Withhold Mercy
Scripture tells us that it is the wicked, not the disciple of Christ, who withholds mercy. The Bible says believers are instructed to not withhold good (Pr 3:27) and that no mercy is found in the wicked (Pr 21:10). In fact, in much of the OT we see that mercy is withheld from those whom the Lord wishes to punish or eliminate. Withholding mercy is how the wicked are destroyed (Dt 7:2, Dt 28:49-50). Those who are marked by the Lord for destruction are to receive no mercy (Jos 11:20).
A disciple of Christ is merciful to others and a wicked man shows no mercy (Ps 112). James 4:17 also tells us that if we know the right thing and don’t do it sin is in us. 1 John 3:17 goes as far as to question our dedication to the Lord if we withhold from the needy, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Tim Keller echoed this theme when he said, “If you look down at the poor and stay aloof from their suffering, you have not really understood or experienced God’s grace.”
Many well intentioned Christians have elevated the concern over creating dependency above our biblical mandate to share the grace, mercy and justice of Christ with others. The concern lies in the belief that our dissemination of physical goods to the sick and poor can create a dependency upon the giver of the gifts. The belief is that it is more important to help the poor provide for themselves and to restore their dignity. The concern is if we provide for the destitute, they will never learn to provide for themselves.
The belief in not creating dependency is supported by many solid economic, philosophical and political viewpoints. Unfortunately, there is very little biblical reasoning to withhold mercy and justice to the poor and sick. When Christ walked the earth he sought to create dependency on himself. Christ never withheld his physical or eternal healing based on a fear of dependency. Never once did Christ say to the blind, paralytic or leper, “Wait, I am concerned that if I heal you, you might become dependent upon my grace and mercy.” He desired to have his followers dependent upon that which only he could provide.
It is not our place to determine who gets mercy and who does not. And, it is not our place to determine why some receive mercy and some do not. Our job as disciples of Christ is to dispense God’s mercy and justice to all who need it. We have not been entrusted by God to determine who is and who is not worthy. Christians dispense grace and mercy and let the Lord sort out who is lazy and who is industrious. All mercy comes from the Lord. Mercy, grace and justice bring glory to God. Choosing to withhold mercy from an individual is consciously deciding not to glorify God.
Mercy for Glory
Disciples of Christ have been selected to disseminate God’s mercy to bring him greater glory. When you give dignity, mercy, love, justice, charity and respect to others you are letting them see Christ in your words and actions. True justice and mercy is filled with the grace of God and is radical and offensive to the world. It is a radical concept in today’s world to do justice for the needy when it is clear that there is no ability for them to repay you. A.W. Tozer said, “How utterly terrible is the current idea that Christians can serve God at their own convenience.”
Feeding the poor, clothing the hungry, serving the sick, these are not natural actions that flow from the human heart. It is unnatural for us to provide justice for the poor and homeless. The justice we dispense is an echo of the grace and mercy God gave us. The desire to serve grows from the grace of Jesus Christ in us. We provide a voice and aide to the poor and oppressed so they can receive the justice found only in Christ’s love.
Mercy given separate from God’s glory is sinful. Those who serve the needy and do not have Christ’s glory at the center of their purpose are doing so to glorify themselves or their belief system. Disease, poverty and starvation are blessings if they help point us towards our greater need for Jesus. Only true mercy comes from Christ and only Christ produces true mercy.
By definition a disciple of Christ is someone who shares his mercy and justice with the sick and poor. Our calling is to bring God glory by sharing his mercy with the suffering.