8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.
1901 ASV Translation:
8 or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.
I. Paul's Focus Upon the Grace-Gifts.
A. His "selectivity".
B. His fundamental understanding.
C. His instruction.
1. Critical to understanding is the issue of "definitions"; thus, we must be sure we understand to some degree that which Paul addresses and not be taken in by those who would distort the definitions in order to take advantage of others.
2. Those who have the ability to "prophesy" are to "prophesy" according to the "apportioned faith" given to them.
3. Those who have the ability to "minister" are to so "minister".
4. The list runs through "teaching", "exhortation", "giving", "ruling", and "showing mercy".
e. Showing Mercy.
1) "Mercy" is an extensively referenced concept in the Bible. Paul uses the nominal and verbal forms of the word in Romans in nine verses (9:15, 16, 18, 23; 11:30, 31, 32; 12:8; and 15:9).
2) The Online Bible says that "mercy" is shown in action and "compassion" resides in the heart. These two words are used together in Romans 9:15 in reference to God's declaration that He determines whether He "will have" mercy or compassion. Paul goes on to say that God sometimes determines to "harden" instead of to "show mercy" (9:18). Jesus said that God "prefers" mercy (Matthew 9:13) and that "mercy" is a "weightier" matter than "tithing" (Matthew 23:23).
3) In the larger scheme of things, "mercy" is a "one of many" characteristic of God's character and, like the many, has its metes and bounds. If this were not so, the "grace/faith-function" called "showing mercy" would be given to all.
4) In the particular scheme of things, "showing mercy" means eliminating the cause of a given Death experience.
a) In most, if not all, of the historical accounts of the Gospels wherein "mercy" is an issue, there is a significant difficulty that is corrupting a person's ability to "live" and "mercy" is extended in the form of a "solution". For examples, consider Matthew 9:27 in its context where two blind men seek "mercy" in the form of a return of sight. This is one of many examples of the same notion wherein a "condition" is viewed as a "life-corrupting" matter and the appeal for "mercy" is an appeal for the elimination of the "condition".
i. According to the New Testament the "occasions" requiring "mercy" in respect to "life" consist of "food", "covering", "health", and "understanding". These are the basics of "life" and the things that are additional to them are extraneous and have no "need" for "mercy".
ii. Therefore, actions taken to resolve the problems of hunger, housing, health, and education are "merciful" and actions taken in regard to most other issues do not fit into the "merciful" category. In an odd sort of way, "mercy" is turned inside out when the issues of "mercy" are expanded to include matters that are not "life/Life" threatening. This leads to the sense of entitlement that destroys everything over time. And, when issues of "mercy" are addressed without regard for their causes, it is no longer "mercy". Paul taught, for example, that "if any would not work, neither should he eat". This is in direct contrast with those whose "mercy" makes it possible for those who refuse to work to eat anyway.
b) In the development of "mercy" as a concept, there is a definitive line of demarcation between "life" and "Life" and the "solutions of mercy" are radically distinct. In 1 Timothy 1 Paul said that he was the "chief of sinners" and "mercy" was extended to him in two particular ways: first, he was "put into the ministry" of "apostleship" in spite of the fact that he had been an injurious blasphemer and persecutor of God's Church (1:12-13); and, second, he was "saved" (1:15-16). Neither of these "issues" is a "life" issue, but both are "Life" issues. Paul's "life" could have been very good without any "ministry" or "salvation", but his "Life" required both in that "Life" has to do with having a real and workable relationship with God.
i. In regard to the differences between "life" and "Life", "mercy" consists of making either possible.
ii. The requirements of "Life" are significantly distinct because "life" has to with the physical body and "Life" has to do with the soul and spirit. The "needs" of the soul and spirit are significantly different from those of the body. Therefore, "mercy" in regard to "Life" has most fundamentally to do with "security", "status", and some mechanism to allow either/both to exist (the most fundamental mechanism is the Spirit/Word connection to the human heart/mind complex).
5) That "showing mercy" is a "gift" indicates that, like most of the "gifts", it can be done by all, but it is a special focus for those who are "gifted" with it. We can, then, expect those who are gifted with "showing mercy" to be motivated to act in the face of any form of "life/Life" threat.
6) For Paul's characterization of the exercise of "mercy", he chose a word that is only used twice in the New Testament in nominal and adjectival forms (2 Corinthians 9:7 and our current text). This word's meaning is most easily seen by the contrasts that the Corinthian text presents: "grudging necessity". The contrasts are matters of the inner condition of the soul when it is subject to extremely distasteful realities. Showing mercy with "cheerfulness" requires an inner freedom of the soul where there is no reluctance.
a) The implication here seems to be that the showing of mercy is sometimes (or, perhaps, often) a distasteful activity (why else would Paul call for it to be done "with cheerfulness"?).
b) This means that the threats to "Life/life" are often seen as self-induced so that "showing mercy" is in contrast with "letting people have what they have coming" under a framework of "responsibility" and "justice".
c) There is another challenge to "cheerfulness": the personal "hit" one often has to take in order to meet the life/Life-need(s) of another. God does not ask that someone starve himself in order to feed another, but He may well ask that someone limit his/her own self-indulgence to feed another. This can generate a "grudging" attitude if the person who is to show mercy is too wrapped up in his/her "perks" to get down to basics about life.