“The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.”
Mercy is often defined as not getting what we deserve. While that is true, the word carries a greater meaning. It also means to show compassion and kindness to those who are in need or distressed. We see it evidenced in the life of Jesus. When He heard the leper calling out for Him, we read Jesus was moved with compassion, reached out His hand, touched the man, and cleansed him. Mercy stirred the heart of Jesus to touch the untouchable, and restore what leprosy had destroyed (Mark 1:40-41). When He felt a tug on His garment, He turned to see a woman who had been struggling with an illness for 12 years, without any hope of healing. Mercy stirred Him to heal her sickness, and reward her great faith (Luke 8:43). When He arrived on the scene of Lazarus’ funeral, and heard the wailing of his family and friends, mercy stirred the heart of Jesus, to weep with those who wept, and to intervene by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-17). Over and over, page after page, person after person, we see Jesus expressing His mercy, in compassion and kindness, to those in need. Nowhere, is this seen more clearly than in the cross. Our need was much greater than that of a woman with a blood disease, a man with leprosy, or even a family with a dead brother. Our need was caused by sin, and the only cure was the death of God. Jesus saw our condition, and bore the weight of all our sin, as He hung on Calvary’s cross. Mercy was extended as His blood was shed.
Mercy is something we are to receive and to spread. Solomon stated, it is the merciful man who does good for his own soul. Jesus said we are blessed when we are merciful. Just as Jesus looked for, and aided those in need, we should be looking for ways to express the mercy of God to others. Mercy is expressed in forgiveness. When we choose to forgive someone who has wronged us, and treat them as though they had never acted that way, we are expressing mercy. When we choose to be kind to someone, not because they have been kind to us, or in hopes of being rewarded, we are expressing mercy. When we go out of our way to show the love of Christ to others, whether it be in word or action, we are expressing mercy. This mercy will benefit the receiver and the giver alike. Those who receive mercy are learning something of the nature of God, and those giving it, are doing good to their own soul.
Questions for Proverbs 11
As in the previous chapter, a variety of practical wisdom with a particular look at the contrast between righteousness and wickedness.
1. Read verse 1. Scales were used in bible times for buying and selling. A person would for instance buy a bag of apples. The apples would be put on the scale and weighed and then the customer would pay the purchase price. Sometimes however, merchants would rig their scales so that they reported that things were heavier than they actually were. So dishonest scales is a symbol of dishonest business and financial dealings. Take a look at your own work and business dealings. Are they honoring to the Lord? Do you compromise when business is not profitable?
2. In verses 3-11 highlight all the uses of the word “righteous” and “upright”. There are two kinds of righteousness in the Bible. Practical righteousness, doing things right before God, and positional righteousness, having a right standing before God. When a person is forgiven by God and out of love for God living His way, that person enjoys great blessings. List the benefits of the righteous in these verses. How does the life of the wicked contrast?
3. Look at verse 13. Gossip is a terrible sin, but being trustworthy is a great blessing to those who call you their friend. Can you be trusted with a secret? Are you quick to want to tell someone, or are you committed to keeping the confidence of those who trust you?
4. Read verse 14. When we are not open to counsel, we are in danger. But when we seek out wise counsel it provides great safety. Now read Psalm 119:24, and Isaiah 9:6. Who is our greatest counselor?
5. In verse 17 we see who is most benefited and harmed by our wisdom or lack of. Who is it?
6. In verse 22 we see a ridiculous picture. A pig with a gold ring in his nose. God likens this to an outwardly beautiful woman, without any discretion or inward beauty. Read 1 Peter 3:3-4. We spend time in front of the mirror every day. We must learn to look into the mirror of God’s word to see the invisible state of our soul.
7. Verses 24-28 have some things to say about generosity and wealth. Do any of these apply to your life right now – in other words are you doing them?
8. Look at verse 30. A mark of wisdom is winning a soul, which is through your witness and your words leading others to Christ. Read Daniel 12:3. Have you ever had this privilege? Would you like to? Ask God for boldness and opportunity to do so!