Can We Earn Mercy?

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18: 9-14

We all desperately need the mercy of God. But None of us is worthy of God’s mercy. That’s the point.

Justice demands a penalty.

Mercy forgives.

When someone throws themselves on the mercy of the court, they are not claiming innocence. they are asking, while admitting their guilt, that the judge forgive them for the penalty their offense deserves.

So it is with God.

A wrong has been committed.

“All have sinned and and come short of the Glory of God” – Romans 3:23

A penalty is required

23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

The penalty has been paid for us.

6 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

The Pharisee was confident he was righteous before God because of his good works. He gave money to the temple, to God, and he fasted twice a week. He boasted about how good he was compared to robbers, evildoers, adulterers, and the tax collector. Don’t we sometimes do that? We boast about feeding the homeless, volunteering at the animal shelter, giving money to the children’s hospital. And we compare ourselves to alcoholics, panhandlers, murderers, cheaters. We are not as bad as them, we say.

Somehow, we hope we are good enough to earn God’s mercy. That is a contradiction in terms. We think we can earn forgiveness. That is a human idea…earning mercy.

8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

All we need to do, like the tax collector is cry out to God for Mercy. God have mercy on me a sinner.

9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

This is the Good, Good News.



Not If, But When

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4

In contemplating Mercy this year, I have been amazed at how hard my own heart is in response to the needy. Yet this is a major theme of the Bible, especially the Old Testament prophets.

As Christians, it is not our calling to condemn the poor, but I hear a lot of that going on. “All they want is a handout,” is sneered.

In the last six months, my husband has been battling to keep his job, which is threatened due to a company takeover and their subsequent efforts to dispense with long-term employees. We have had to adjust our priorities and contemplate giving up luxuries (cable TV, eating out, shopping at Aldi’s instead of Family Fare or Meijer). I say this not for the sake of seeking sympathy, but simply because I have been thinking more about those who are less fortunate than we are.

My daughter says that “poverty is gripping.” As working class people with decent jobs, we have not suffered poverty. Even if my husband would lose his job, he can get Social Security. He would not be without income.

I have been thinking about all that I am thankful for as Thanksgiving approaches. And as we contemplate downsizing, what can I give in response to that thanks giving?

Thanks. Giving.


To Accuse or Intercede – That is the Question

I am talking to myself here.

The post last week, Gathering the Evidence, has led to more introspection. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words.

“26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”(John 14:26, the Bible)

So….these words came back to me in the past few days.

Jesus said. “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Do I pray for those who offend me or intercede for them?

Or after I am offended (I am weak, and sometimes the rush of emotions overwhelms me), do I dwell on the offense? When I dwell on the offense, I take on the role of the accuser.

Oh, it takes faith to pray, to intercede instead. But when we go before the throne in prayer, God hears us.

“12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:12-16, The Bible)