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What is the spiritual gift of mercy?

Understanding the spiritual gift of mercy

3 min

A Christian’s motivational spiritual gift represents what God does in him to shape his perspective on life and motivate his words and actions. Romans 12:3–8 describes “basic motivations,” which are characterized by inherent qualities or abilities within a believer—the Creator’s unique workmanship in him or her.

Through the motivational gifts, God makes believers aware of needs that He wants to meet through them, for His glory. Then, believers can minister to others through the ministry and manifestation gifts of the Spirit, in ways beyond mere human capability and ingenuity, with maximum effectiveness and minimum weariness.

Each person’s behavior will vary according to factors such as temperament, background, age, gender, culture, and circumstances. However, it is not unusual for individuals who share the same motivational gift to demonstrate common characteristics. Below are some general characteristics that are typically exhibited by those who have the motivational gift of mercy.

General Characteristics

A mercy-giver’s basic motivational drive is to sense and respond to the emotional and spiritual needs of others. Those with the mercy motivational gift have a divine ability to sense hurt and respond to it with love and understanding.

  • The mature mercy-giver is kind and gentle.
  • Mercy-givers sense and reflect the spiritual and emotional atmosphere around them. Whereas prophets, organizers, and teachers tend to project their attitudes to others, individuals who have the gifts of mercy and exhorting are more likely to sense how others are feeling.
  • Mercies need to be needed. People with this gift must reach out and get involved, or their mercy will turn inward, resulting in an introspective focus that concentrates on their own hurts or fears.
  • To the mercy-giver, spirituality is not a textbook analysis but rather is an emotional confirmation of God’s presence in his life. He is interested in learning doctrine mainly so that he can act on it and then feel that he has been obedient. If no feelings accompany his experience, he tends to downplay its significance.
  • Mercies are drawn to other sensitive people.
  • Believers who have the gift of mercy are the backbone of the prayer power in the Church. They feel they must pray. To them, prayer is an expression of their hearts to God, and nothing else they can do releases these emotions and captures God’s heart better than prayer.

A Mercy’s Strengths

  • Mercies have a God-given ability to sense a person’s spirit or the atmosphere among a group of people. They recognize the feelings that may be at work in others’ minds and hearts. When mercies are walking in the Spirit, this gift equips them to reach out to people who are suffering but who would likely be reluctant to tell others about their needs.
  • Mercy-givers are attracted to people in distress; they love the people that most of us tend to run away from.
  • Mercies love the unlovable, such as the handicapped, the elderly, the seriously ill, and the wounded in spirit. They are drawn to the outcast, the out of fellowship, and the rebellious. Mercy-givers run toward people who are unpleasant or unresponsive, reflecting the heart of God toward needy people.
  • Because of their sensitivity, mercies do not take sin lightly—their own or someone else’s.
  • Mercies tend to embrace humility, because of their sensitive spirits and awareness of their own weaknesses and failures.

A Mercy’s Weaknesses

  • Mercies can be indecisive, tossed to and fro by their emotions. (See James 1:5–8.)
  • Mercy-givers can easily allow others to become dependent on them, when the individuals should be dependent on God. They often become rescuers of those who do not need to be rescued.
  • The mercy-giver’s warmth can be falsely interpreted as personal, intimate affection. They must learn to temper their demonstration of affections based on the mindset of those to whom they are ministering. If they fail to do this, both parties may be led into temptation.
  • Mercies are quick to take up others’ offenses, which can quickly lead to anger and bitterness.
  • Because mercy-givers try to avoid conflict of any kind, they often avoid confrontation that is needed. Mercy-givers would rather hide from or ignore their enemies than confront them, even when they are in authority over those enemies. Delaying the inevitable always leads to more trouble—for everyone.
  • Immature or rebellious mercies tend to be harsh and impatient, reflecting their own self-condemnation by lashing out at others whom they judge to be as weak or sinful as they are.
  • Mercies tend to be introspective. As a person who is sensitive to hurts, it is easy for him to become overly sensitive to his own. If a mercy falls into this trap, he will wallow in past offenses, cling to past bitternesses, and dwell on past mistakes or sins.
  • It is easy for mercies to develop a poor self-image, since they tend to be introspective and remain acutely aware of their own failures. The longer the mercy dwells on his failures, the more worthless and wicked he feels.
  • Mercies tend to be worriers as a result of focusing on their own failures.
Explore more about this topic in Understanding Spiritual Gifts

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