What are the common characteristics of mercy-givers?
Following are some traits commonly observed in those who have the motivational spiritual gift of mercy. These traits can be used to benefit others, or they can be misused and thereby cause discord in the Body of Christ.
When a believer walks according to the Spirit (see Galatians 5:25), his unique perspective (in this case, mercy) is demonstrated through traits that reflect the character of Christ. However, when a believer walks in “the flesh,” making choices that are determined by his sinful nature, his unique perspective is demonstrated through undesirable, ungodly traits. (See Galatians 5:16–17.)
Read these examples thoughtfully and prayerfully, and ask God to help you discern if your motivational gift is mercy. If it is, be encouraged as you learn about the special virtue and wisdom that God has given you with this gift. Be warned of the temptation to misapply these Godly traits when you fail to walk in the grace God gives you to use them righteously. (See Hebrews 12:15.)
Deep Loyalty to Friends
A person with the gift of mercy will demonstrate loyalty to a friend, including reacting harshly toward those who attack the friend. When the Apostle John (who had the motivational gift of mercy) watched the Samaritans reject Jesus, Whom he loved, John wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them. (See Luke 9:54.)
Misuse of this trait: Takes up offenses
Mercy-givers tend to take up an offense for someone who is being hurt by another person, especially if the one being hurt is a friend. This response can easily lead to bitterness.
Needs Deep Friendships
The nature of a mercy-giver usually requires close friendships. These friendships must be based on mutual commitment that is reaffirmed often. John enjoyed such a friendship with Christ. He was not only closer to Christ than most of the other disciples, but he referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (See John 21:20, 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7.)
Misuse of this trait: Becomes possessive
The mercy’s deep need for commitment in a close friendship can cause him to monopolize the time and attention of others. When he experiences disappointments in one friendship, the mercy-giver tends to place greater demands on a new friendship.
Empathizes With Hurting People
A mercy is able to sense which individuals are hurting and to share the pain with them. Along with pain, a mercy senses the full scope of emotions. John wrote his first epistle to give joy, fellowship, hope, and confidence and to cast out fear and torment. (See I John 1:3–4, 3:2–3, 4:18, 5:13–15.)
Misuse to this trait: Tolerates evil
If mercy-givers do not have spiritual discernment about why people suffer, they may give sympathy and encouragement to those who suffer because they violated God’s moral laws. A mercy can learn discernment by seeing people in light of God’s Word and through the perspective of the other spiritual gifts.
Makes Decisions Based on Benefits
Mercies find it hard to be firm, because they do not want to offend other people. Therefore, the mercy must see that greater hurt and offenses will occur if he fails to be decisive. When John was faced with denying Jesus, he demonstrated boldness and decisiveness, which caused the Sadducees to marvel. (See Acts 4:13.)
Misuse of this trait: Fails to be firm
When a mercy-giver is given a position of leadership, he will tend to avoid disciplinary action that is needed. As a result, the person who should have been disciplined is not brought to repentance, others react to his leadership, and more conflicts develop.
Deeply Sensitive to Loved Ones
The gift of mercy carries with it the ability to sense genuine love. Therefore, it carries a greater vulnerability to deeper and more frequent hurts from those who fail to demonstrate sincere love. In his writings, John used the word love more frequently than any other writer of the New Testament books.
Misuse of this trait: Leans on emotions vs. reason
Because those with the gift of mercy have such sensitive feelings, they tend to base their decisions on emotions rather than on principles. Their subjective reasoning can easily cause them to reject Biblical doctrines that seem harsh to them.
Attracts People Who Are in Distress
A mercy-giver has a deep sense of compassion for people who are going through mental or emotional distress. This sensitivity causes those with hurts to be drawn to him and to confide in him. As Christ was dying, He transferred to John responsibility for His grieving mother.
Misuse of this trait: Defrauding the opposite sex
A person of the opposite sex tends to be drawn to one who has the gift of mercy because of the mercy’s ability to be a sensitive, understanding, and responsive listener. The possibility of defrauding others must be considered in any relationship that a mercy has with a person of the opposite sex.
Desires to Remove Hurts
Whereas an exhorter will try to help a person find benefit from his hurts, a mercy-giver will try to remove the source of the hurts. A key message from John’s first epistle was for Christians to stop hurting and hating each other. (See I John 3:11, 15; 4:7–12.)
Misuse of this trait: Reacts to God’s purposes
Unlike exhorters, who look at suffering as a means of receiving more grace and growing spiritually, mercies tend to react to the idea that God would allow a good person to suffer. Unless the person with the gift of mercy maintains a proper perspective, he can easily become bitter toward God.
Measures Acceptance by Closeness
A person with the gift of mercy tends to need physical closeness in order to be reassured of acceptance. The closeness includes times of rich fellowship. John sought out the closest place to Christ at the Last Supper and leaned upon the Lord. His need for physical closeness may also have prompted his request to sit next to Christ in glory. (See Mark 10:35–37.)
Misuse of this trait: Failing to show deference
When a person with the gift of mercy demands physical closeness in a friendship, he may fail to consider the desires of other individuals who need that person’s time and attention. John was gently reproved for his request to be next to Jesus in His kingdom.
Attracted to Prophets
The statement that “opposites attract” is certainly true with the motivational gifts. Those with the gift of mercy are often attracted to those with the gift of prophecy. The firm truth of the prophet is thus balanced with the gentle love of the mercy. John spent more time with Peter than with any other disciple. (See Luke 22:8, Acts 3:1–11, 4:13–22, 8:14.)
Misuse of this trait: Cuts off insensitive people
A mercy quickly recognizes and reacts to people whose words and actions reflect insensitivity to the feelings of others. Rather than trying to help this insensitive person, the mercy will tend to cut off fellowship with him.
Are You a Mercy-Giver?
Do you recognize any of these positive characteristics or their misapplications as ones that you have demonstrated? Do the motivations of a mercy-giver guide your decisions and actions? If so, rejoice, because God has given you a unique responsibility in the Body of Christ!
If these characteristics, and their misuses, do not reflect your motivations, we encourage you to read and study similar information about each of the other six spiritual motivational gifts (prophecy, serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, and organizing). Ask the Lord to reveal your spiritual gift to you. God will show you how He has gifted you. Be diligent!
As each of us identifies his or her motivational gift, he or she will be better equipped to achieve maximum fruitfulness with minimum weariness. As we exercise our gifts, we experience personal fulfillment and a deep sense of joy.
Russell Kelfer, in his excellent book titled Discovering Your Spiritual Gift, gives us an excellent word picture related to the motivational spiritual gifts assigned by God: “This isn’t a gift for you to put on the mantle like a trophy to admire. It is like a certain kind of glove that you put on that allows your hands to do the work of the ministry they were called to do. It is like a certain kind of spiritual shoes you wear to take you where you need to go” (Kelfer, page 10). Let’s put on those custom-designed gloves and shoes and get to work!