The fifth beatitude deals with the extension of, as well as the reception of, mercy. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). At first glance, it seems like Jesus is saying people must first extend mercy to others before they receive mercy from God. Indeed, this is how some people interpret the passage. As D. A. Carson explained, “Some try to interpret this verse legalistically, as if to say that the only way to obtain mercy from God is by showing mercy to others: God’s mercy thus becomes essentially contingent to our own” (Carson, The Sermon on the Mount, 23). Is this the correct interpretation? Is Jesus saying God’s mercy is contingent upon our showing mercy towards others? I think not.
Mercy means “to be greatly concerned about someone in need, have compassion, mercy, pity” (BDAG, eleeo). So, does God only show us compassion when we show compassion to others? Again, I think the answer is no. Why? Because God’s mercy and grace is not dependency upon human works. God doesn’t extend grace or mercy based on our actions. This would be a “works righteousness” or works-based salvation,” which Scripture roundly condemns. So, if Jesus isn’t saying we have to show mercy to receive mercy, what in the world does He mean?
To put it simply, those who have received mercy and salvation will show mercy and compassion to others. The mercy they show is proof they have received God’s mercy in the past, as well as proof they will receive God’s mercy in the future. As Turner put it, “Those who have experienced God’s mercy will show it to others (Matt. 18:21–35) and so demonstrate their destiny as those who will yet receive mercy at the last day” (Turner, Matthew, BECNT, 152). Christians who have received God’s mercy will extend that mercy to others, and they will yet again experience God’s mercy on the last day.
So, we should show mercy to others, not in order to receive mercy, but because we have already received mercy. And, we should thank God for His mercy towards us, who deserve eternal judgment but receive everlasting life!