The Ministry of Mercy, Part 8 © 2004 by R W Glenn2
“It’s always better to err on the side of mercy,” he said. “It’s better to err onthe side of mercy than to let a truly needy person go.”
Of course, I had no response. In light of what I knew from Scripture about theministry of mercy, I knew that Pastor Joe was right. And this was
I read this fromJonathan Edwards’ sermon on Christian charity: “It is true, when we have opportunity tobecome certainly acquainted with [the circumstances of the poor], it is well to embrace it:and to be influenced in a measure by probability in such cases, is not to be condemned. Yet
it is better to give to several that are not objects of charity, than to send away empty one that is
Edwards is right to point out that we are wise to research the claims of the needy; wecertainly do not want to be party to sin.However, when for some reason we do not havethe occasion to ascertain precisely the condition of those asking for our help, knowing whatwe do about our responsibility to the poor, the prudent route to take is the one that doesn’taccidentally neglect them.With that said, I’d like to take this, our last message on the ministry of mercy toaddress the question of how to decide who is to receive our mercy. In other words, whenwe find ourselves in the place of
the opportunity to become certainly acquainted withthe circumstances of the poor, what should be the criteria that we use for dispersing ourresources? How do we determine who gets what, and in what proportions? Is it ever rightto stop giving aid? Should there be conditions attached to the mercy we offer the poor?Well, let me say that these questions are quite complex; that is, they involve a varietyof factors, many of which intersect. For example, we will find evidence in Scripture that theministry of mercy is to be performed for the benefit of the believer and the unbeliever andthat the ministry of mercy is offered both unconditionally and conditionally. In order tounderstand how these apparently contradictory ideas intersect in the ministry of mercy, it isimportant for us to understand something of the nature of mercy itself.
Turn with me in your Bibles to
Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leavinghim half dead.
"And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when hesaw him, he passed by on the other side.
"Likewise a Levite also, when he came tothe place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
"But a Samaritan, who was ona journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,
and came tohim and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him onhis own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
"On the next dayhe took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him;and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.'
"Which of thesethree do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers'
Jonathan Edwards, “Christian Charity: or, “The Duty of Charity to the Poor, Explained and Enforced,”in
, Vol 2, Sereno E Dwight (Ed) (Banner of Truth, 1997 reprint of the 1834 edition), 172, italics added.