The word “merciful” translates a Greek word from which we get “benefactor.” It appears in this sense only one other time in the New Testament (Hebrews 2.17) where Jesus is described as a merciful and faithful high priest.
The Latin derivation of the word is misericordia, a compound term – misernas, meaning “pity, misery, or pain” and cordis, “heart.” So miseria cordis is “pain of heart.” That’s the primary meaning of mercy. It’s when we count another’s misery or need as our very own and then act within our power and ability to relieve or supply their need.
Jesus illustrated the meaning of mercy to a self-righteous and unmerciful lawyer in Luke 10.25-37. He told the story of a man who was beaten, robbed and left for dead by the roadside. On no less than two occasions, highly respected men could have helped him, but instead chose to pass by. Then a Samaritan, loathsome in the estimation of the Jews, stopped, rendered first aid, carried the injured man to a place of safety and paid for his keep!
Now which of these three, Jesus asked the lawyer, was a neighbor to the man robbed? The lawyer’s only response was, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
Mercy considers neither status, ethnicity, nor race – simply the need, and compels us to extend whatever aid and assistance we are able to give.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”