Back

LESSON 6 - THE MERCIFUL (MATTHEW 5:7)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: What a relief!  We have studied our way through the
poor, the mourning, the meek and the hungry.  Finally we come to an
attribute that sounds good without needing an extended explanation!
Let's see what we can learn about mercy!
 

I. WHAT DOES MERCY MEAN?

     A. Turn with me to Matthew 5:7. Read.

     B. If someone said to me, "you are a merciful guy," I would
     consider that a compliment.  How about you?  Would you like
     people to consider you to be merciful?

          1. What is your definition of mercy?

     C. Is it mercy to give someone a break who deserves it?

     D. Is it mercy to give someone a break who does not deserve
     it?

     E. Should mercy be shown to those who take advantage of
     you?

          1. How much advantage?  For example, should we show mercy
          to:

               a. Wife beaters?

               b. Child molesters?

               c. Rapists?

               d. Murders?

                    (1) I tried to list these in order of
                    increasing harm. My thought was that if
                    someone took your life, they would have taken
                    more advantage than beating you. Do you agree?

                         (a) Hold that thought as we look at a
                         parable.
II. CHRIST'S STORY ABOUT MERCY.

     A. Turn with me to Matthew 18:23-27. Read. What do you think
     Jesus means when He says, "the kingdom of heaven is like [this
     story I'm going to tell you?]" (I think He is saying that He
     is giving us a lesson about eternal life.  If we aspire to go
     to heaven, this story applies to us!)

     B. Who is settling accounts in this story? (The king, not the
     subjects.)

          1. If this story is about us, who does the king
          represent? (God.)

          2. We learn that one servant of the kingdom owed the king
          10,000 talents. Do you have any idea how much money a
          talent represents? (It is about $250,000 -- adjusted for
          inflation.)

               a. How much money is 10,000 talents? (My poor math
               tells me that 250k x 10k = $2,500,000,000! Two and
               one half billion!)

          3. What does this number alone tell us about this
          servant?

          4. Would anyone loan you 2.5 billion?

               a. How about 2.5 billion without collateral? (This
               servant must have been special.  Certainly he was
               no ordinary servant. No one would loan me 2.5
               billion -- especially without collateral! So this
               servant was rich and influential. He was the Donald
               Trump of the time.)

          5.  Does the servant want to see the king? (No! He
          "was brought"(v.24) to the king.)

          6. Would you rather be dead, than be sold, along with
          your family, as slaves?

          7. What if you were one of the most prominent, wealthiest
          families?  What if you had a home in Europe, in Asia, in
          Brazil and a couple in the U.S.? (The fall is so great,
          the humility so large, I imagine that he would rather
          die.)

          8. What does the servant ask for? (Patience to pay the
          whole thing back.)

          9. Does the king give him what he asked for? (No. The
          king canceled his debt. He did more than he asked!)

               a. Why would you cancel a debt when you could get
               the 2.5 billion back with time? (The king
               apparently felt he could never pay or had a very
               generous heart.)

     C. Remember this parable starts out, "the kingdom of heaven is
     like ... [this story.]" (v.23) Does this mean that the kingdom
     of heaven is composed of people who forgive?

          1. Who is doing the forgiving here? (The king! The
          kingdom of heaven is composed of a king who forgives 2.5
          billion.)

          2. Who is the forgiven servant in the kingdom of heaven?
          (Us. Donald trump is us! Ephesians 2:1 tells us we were
          dead in our sins. Ephesians 2:12 tells us we were without
          hope and without God. We had a 2.5 billion dollar debt
          and no realistic way to pay it back.)

     D. Would you call this king merciful?

          1. Is the servant worthy?

          2. Had he taken advantage of the king?  How much
          advantage? (2.5 billion worth of advantage in the end.)

     E. Let's read on. Matt. 18:28-30. A hundred denarii is a few
     thousand dollars. A denarii was worth about 8 cents in the 1st
     century AD, but was a day's wages for a laborer. So, adjusted
     for inflation, let's say a denarii is about $50.00. So this
     debt is $5,000.

          1. What does the fellow servant request? (The same thing;
          more time to pay back the debt.)

          2. Does the forgiven servant give him more time? (No. He
          throws him in jail where he has no opportunity to pay
          back the debt.)

               a. What else does the forgiven servant do that shows
               he is a "less than friendly" kind of guy? (He
               chokes his fellow servant. He was entitled to
               money. He was not entitled to physically abuse the
               fellow servant.)

               b. Is the king entitled to abuse his servants? (Yes.
               These two servants are theoretically equals.  But
               the king is not the equal of the servant.)

          3. Notice the irony. The king gives the forgiven servant
          more than he asks. The forgiven servant gives his fellow
          servant less than he asks. And the king is entitled to
          inflict more harm than a fellow servant.

     F. Read vv. 31-34. Who blows the whistle on the forgiven
     servant? (Verse 31 "The other servants.")

          1. Why do the other servants blow the whistle on the
          forgiven servant? (They are outraged at the disparity in
          treatment.)

III. APPLICATION TIME

     A. Tell me about your debt to God?

          1.  What do you owe Him?

          2. What did He give you?

               a. Did He give you your life?

               b. The life of your spouse?

               c. The lives of your children?

               d. The lives of your parents?

          3. What did you cost Him? (Didn't He give His only Son's
          life for your life and the lives of those you love most?
          John 3:16.)

     B. Remember that I asked you to "hold that thought" some time
     ago?  The thought that you were holding was that someone who
     takes your life, takes the most advantage of you.

          1. Did you take God's life? (Actually, you did not "take
          it." And, you did not mean to take it. He gave it. He
          meant to give it.  But the cost is the same. He died for
          our sins. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 3:25.)

     C. What is the definition of mercy that we draw from the
     example of the king in the parable? (To forgive more than we
     are asked to forgive.)

          1. What is the lesson of the parable? (That the servant
          who was forgiven much, refused to forgive, and refused to
          forgive considerably less than he was forgiven.)

          2. Should we forgive wife beaters? Child molesters?
          Rapists?

               a. If, as you agreed before, these are "lesser
               crimes" than murder, and if, as you agreed before,
               you cost God His life, then are you bound to
               forgive these lesser crimes?

     D. Re-read Matthew 18:33-35 and Matthew 5:7. Are these
     teaching the same principle?

          1. Do they reach the same conclusion? (No! The "end" of
          Matthew 5:7 is mercy.  The "end" of Matthew 18:34-35 is
          torture.)

          2. How can the king who showed more mercy than he
          was asked to give, now torture his servant?

          3. What lesson is there in this?  That if someone we
          forgive, does not forgive others, we should torture them?
          (No.  The question about wife beaters, rapists and
          murderers that I asked earlier are very difficult if you
          have been through an experience involving one of these
          crimes.  The difference I see that is reflected in our
          parable is that God has the authority to punish. God
          establishes the state (Romans 13:1-5) and God has
          authorized the death penalty for some crimes.
          (Deuteronomy 17). Jesus does not indicate that the
          "fellow servants" in our parable (Matthew 18:31) sinned
          by telling the king about what happened. I think we can
          take comfort in the state punishing crime. However,
          whatever the state does, God calls on us to forgive the
          most heinous crimes against us.)

          4. This morning I ask you to just take a second and
          consider the terrible crime you have committed against
          Christ!
 
     E. Now friends, is there anyone who you have not forgiven?
     Anyone against whom you hold a grudge? Anyone to who you have
     not shown mercy? God gave you your life, the life of your
     spouse, the lives of your parents and the lives of your
     children.  You all deserved to die -- forever. Compare what
     God has given you (and forgiven you) with the "injury"
     inflicted upon you by the person you have not forgiven.  The
     disparity is so great, even your "fellow servants" realize the
     injustice of your attitude.  "Blessed are the merciful, for
     they will receive mercy."

          1. What do you think Jesus means in Matt. 18:35 when He
          says, "forgive your brother from your heart?"

               a. Have you forgiven your brother "from the heart"
               when you say, "I'll forgive, but I'll not forget?"
 

          2. Unless we are willing to overlook insults,
          overlook offenses, overlook personal injustice, we do not
          understand what Jesus has done for us.
          His forgiveness, gave you your life.
          His forgiveness gave your husband, your wife, life.
          His forgiveness, gave your children their lives.
          His forgiveness, gave your parents their lives.
          He is a great and merciful God who is looking for
          merciful followers! "Blessed are the merciful, for they
          will be shown mercy!"

IV. NEXT WEEK: "THE PURE IN HEART," Matthew 5:8. Study!