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.


One thought on “Can We Earn Mercy?

  1. 6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
    7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
    Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

    8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
    9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    Isaiah 55:6-9

    Our way is earning righteousness, and if not punishment, retribution.

    God’s way is mercy, forgiveness. His ways are higher than ours.

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