Mercy and Grace: God’s Mercy

Many Christians use this phrase interchangeably, “Thank you Lord for your grace, You are so merciful to us”. That prayer certainly isn’t wrong, a Christian can certainly lay claim to those exact words, but don’t forget, mercy and grace are not the same thing. Christians understand that God’s grace and mercy are separate aspects of God’s character and nature. Lets define the two:

Mercy, simply put, is not giving a person what they do deserve or from the perspective of the first person, not getting what you deserve. A debtor who is unable to pay his debts, he knows what mercy is. He begs the man he’s indebted to and if offered a reprieve, or better yet, having his debt simply written off, that is mercy as far as he is concerned. This is actually a biblical illustration, as found in Matthew 18:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. Matthew 18:23-34

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Notice the man has an unpayable debt. According to this website, a day’s wage is 1 Denarus, and one talent is worth approximate 6000 (that’s right, six thousand) Denarii. Or approximately 16 years wages, and that’s just 1 talent. Ten thousand talents is so utterly unpayable that its almost a ridiculous number. 600 million days wage. The high number is key to this parable because it tells the listening audience two things: 1. that the man is utterly incapable of paying, and 2: that the forgiveness that comes is not just an arbitrary thing between friends. It means that the master is incurring a huge financial loss, this is not something that can be undertaken without consideration. Now it was that ungrateful servant, who after being shown great mercy, violently refuses to show any to the man who, owning a fair amount but not unpayable of money, 100 denarii, earns the wrath of the master for being totally unmerciful after being show so much mercy.

Remember our definition, that  mercy is when a person doesn’t get something they deserve. The man, for his unpayable debt deserved some kind of punishment, and in the first century, that would be prison, yet the master showed him mercy, and withheld punishment. We see later he withdrew that mercy because of the cruelness of that man.

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Tomorrow I will post on the doctrine here, God Grace. 

Bearded gentleman, Christ follower, Christian and theologian blogger. Owner of Havelock the cat. Reader of Tolkien lore

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