Lesson Six: Blessed are those who are Merciful
Main idea: We become merciful by being broken people and letting God’s mercy into our lives.
- Read Scripture references 1 Peter 1:3-4, Psalm 51, Luke 6:36, Matthew 9:9-13
- Gather: Bible; dry erase markers or chart paper and markers; BEEATTITUDES poster; yellow paper cups; scissors; black markers; index cards; masking tape; candy
- Take time to meditate on this week’s Scripture and think about your own life. Mercy is kindness in the face of unkindness. Mercy is letting go of being “right” for the sake of a relationship. Mercy is remembering that the driver who just cut you off while they were texting is deeply loved by God. Mercy is keeping your eye on the bigger picture of salvation, and not getting caught up in the minutiae of religious duty. The bake sale to raise money for the youth’s mission trip to Honduras is important, but not as important as laughing with (instead of snapping at) the woman who forgot she was supposed to donate two dozen cupcakes. Make a mental list of the ways in which God has been merciful to you, forgiving your sins and showing you kindness. Think of at least one practical way you can be more merciful this week.
- Matthew 5:1-12
- Micah 6:8
- Titus 3:5
- Psalm 51:1-3, 17
- Luke 10:25-35
Game: Mercy Tag
Clear a large space in your room or take the kids outside. Mark off the boundaries of this game of tag. You have two people who are “it” in this timed game of tag. One is “Mean” and one is “Mercy.” It may help to have Mean wear a hat or scarf of one color and Mercy another color. When you say go, everyone starts running around like crazy within the boundaries of the game. If Mean tags you, you must freeze. Mercy will come and unfreeze you. It is important that you keep moving unless you are tagged, so Mercy doesn’t try to unfreeze you when you are just standing around for no reason! Play continues for two minutes, then you see who came out on top, Mercy or Mean. How many kids were frozen by Meanness? How many were set free by Mercy? Choose new “its” and continue play for as long as you have time. If too many people are getting tagged and staying frozen, have two kids be Mercy. If Mercy is unfreezing kids too fast, have two people be Mean. If you would like, have the kids pretend to be bees. Mean stings and Mercy heals.
Open in prayer, then say can you believe that this is our sixth week in the Beatitudes? We have learned so much in our time together! Remember, the Beatitudes tell us what our attitudes should be. That’s why we have been playing so many bee related games and making crafts about bees. Whenever we see a bumblebee, we will remember what our attitude should be. The first three Beatitudes didn’t really seem like blessings when we first started studying them. They were all about being empty and humble and broken before the Lord. Today, and for the next few weeks, we will study the last three Beatitudes that fill up the emptiness, the hunger, which we have been studying for so long now. Let’s read the whole Beatitudes passage is Matthew 5:1-12 before we learn about the fifth Beatitude. (Read, or have a student read, Matthew 5:1-12.)
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’”
What is our Beatitude today? It’s the fifth one, found in verse seven of this passage. (Have a student answer.) Yes, today’s Beatitude is “blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Mercy is a very important topic, and a word you hear a whole lot around the church. So today we are going to ask, where does mercy come from? How can I become merciful? What is mercy? (Write these questions on the board.)
Before we start to answer these questions, I want to pick up where we left off last week. One of the last verses we looked at was Micah 6:8. Look it up now and we’ll read it together. (Read, or have a student read, Micah 6:8). “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This is the way God wants us to live. This verse sums up what it means to live righteously before God. Mercy is one of three things listed, so it means being merciful is very important! What comes to mind when you hear the word mercy? (Allow a few students to answer.) When I hear the word mercy, I picture a criminal on his knees, begging a judge to “please have mercy on my soul!” Can you guys picture what I’m talking about? The criminal, who has done wrong, is asking for mercy from the judge, who has the power to send the criminal to jail or set them free.
Based off of that picture, where does mercy come from? (Allow students to answer.) Mercy comes from someone who is in charge, or someone who has some sort of influence in your life. In this case, mercy could come from the judge if he chooses to let the criminal off easy. In our case, where does the greatest mercy come from? Of course, the greatest mercy we could ever get comes from God. Let’s have a sword drill to show us that. Take all fingers and bookmarks out of your Bible and hold them over your head. When I say go, turn to Titus 3:5. Go! (Read, or have a student read Titus 3:5.) “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Mercy comes from God. It is because God first showed us mercy that we can show mercy to others. Any mercy we have to give, we get from the Lord. This verse in Titus shows us that there is nothing we can do to earn mercy. God gives it to us freely.
The Beatitudes we have already studied show us how we accept this mercy. God is willing to give it to us, but not everyone gets his mercy because not everyone is willing to receive this free gift. As we have studied the Beatitudes, we have discovered that they build on each other. The first three Beatitudes are about being broken and empty, and then when we become broken and empty and mourn over our sins, we start to hunger for God and a righteous life with him. The first thing God gives us when we start to desire being right with him is mercy. We get mercy when we are humble before God and when we want to be forgiven of our sins. Please understand that we can’t earn God’s mercy, though. It isn’t something we can buy by being good or going to church or saying the right things. Mercy is a gift from God.
Let’s look at it this way. If you are outside playing on a hot summer day, you will probably get pretty thirsty. Your mom will know that you are thirsty, but she isn’t going to chase you down, sit on you and force you to drink water. She will offer you a drink, but she will not MAKE you drink the water, even though she knows it’s what you really need. She also isn’t going to make you beg for water or do one hundred jumping jacks before giving you a drink. All you have to do is ask, and your mom will give you the water you need. Only what you need though, if you ask for remote control cars when you need food, you won’t get anything. God’s mercy is like that. He knows we really need his mercy to live healthy, happy and full lives, but he will never FORCE his mercy on us. He also does not make us beg or work for mercy. All we have to do is ask for it. So now we have answered our first question, “where does mercy come from?” Mercy comes from God. (Write “free gift from God” on the board next to the question “Where does mercy come from?”)
We get God’s mercy when we ask for it. We ask for mercy after we realize we need it, when we realize we are sinners who deserve to be punished for all the wrong we do. We become humble, broken over our sins, and we don’t fight back when people wrong us, and we starve for a right life with God. Basically, we see all the Beatitudes we have studied so far fall into place in our lives. That’s when we become merciful. People who show mercy are the ones who are broken before the Lord. There’s a whole Psalm in the Bible about this; Psalm 51. We’re only going to read a few verses from it today. I suggest you read the whole Psalm on your own to help you learn even more about mercy. For now, let’s all turn to Psalm 51. Follow along as I read from Psalm 51:1-3. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” King David, who wrote this Psalm, knew he was a sinner, and he knew he needed mercy from God to save him. King David knew that all he had to do was ask for mercy and he would get it. When we get God’s mercy, we are able to be merciful ourselves, because we understand that we are sinners in need of a savior, just like everyone else. We become merciful when we have a heart that is broken of all pride and is humble before Jesus. Psalm 51 shows us this, too, in verse 17: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” So now we have answered our second question: “How can I become merciful?” We become merciful when we stay humble before the Lord and ask him to be merciful to us. (Write “humble and ask for mercy” on the board next to “How can I become merciful?”)
Our last question is a very important one. What is mercy, anyway? (Allow a few student responses.) Mercy is best explained through a story. Let’s talk about a story most of you are familiar with: The Good Samaritan. We can find this story that Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37. Instead of just reading through it, let’s see if we can remember the story on our own. (If your class is not as familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan, it would be best to read it rather than have them try to recall the details. You could read it aloud and have a few students pantomime the story as you read to help hold their attention.) Someone who knew the law of God really well once asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him what the law had to say. The lawyer correctly answered with the greatest commandment. Who remembers what that is? (Allow students to answer.) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer wanted to make excuses for not following this commandment perfectly, so he asked Jesus who his neighbor was. Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan. How does it start? With a guy walking along the road getting robbed and beat half to death. Who walked by first? Right, a priest, who was like the pastor of the time. He ignored the poor guy. Who walked by next? Right, a Levite, who was like a worship leader of the time. He totally ignored the injured man too. Who came by next? A Samaritan. Samaritans were the worst enemies to the Jews back then. The got along about as well as cats and water, fire and gasoline, peanut butter and pickles. A Samaritan was the last person you would expect to help a Jew. But this guy went above and beyond to do everything he could to help take care of the hurt Jew. After telling this story, Jesus asked the lawyer who he thought was neighbor to the man who was robbed. The law expert said, “The one who had mercy on him.”
The Samaritan showed mercy. He could have kicked the injured man, spat on him, pointed and laughed, but instead he gave up his own time and resources to take care of the Jewish man, who everyone would have called his enemy. Being merciful means doing the kind thing, even when we could be mean instead. Even when everyone would expect us to be mean or unforgiving, we show mercy. We are kind when we could be mean. (Write “kind, not mean” on the board next to “what is mercy?”) That is what mercy is. God is kind to us, sending his son to die for our sins when he could just leave us in our sins, destined to spend all of forever in hell. Instead, he showed mercy. Jesus died for us, even though we weren’t humble or mournful over our sins or wanting a life with God or at all concerned with being kind to mean people when we could just be mean in return. God shows us mercy, so let’s go into the world and show mercy, too.
(End by adding the “merciful” bee to the “shown mercy” part of the hive on the BEEATTITUDES poster.)
End in prayer.
Craft: Bee Gift Boxes
Today’s craft is meant to be a gift of mercy and kindness for someone in need. Have each child cut the sturdy lip off their cups. Help the younger children with this step. Make eight slits around the lip of the cup, about the same distance apart from one another and about an inch down the cup. Just sort of eyeball it. No need for perfection here. The tabs should be long enough to reach the center of the cup when folded in. Once all the tabs are made, fold them straight down so they overlap and cover the opening of the cup. Now use black marker to draw the stripes, legs and face of the bee. Draw the face on the bottom of the cup. Cut out two heart shapes from an index card for wings and tape them to the side of the cup (or what is now the top) with the pointy heart bottoms touching. Cut out two antennae and tape them on as well. Now fill the cup with candy or other small treats. Tape the opening closed and add a paper stinger. Explain to the children that these bees are not for them to keep. They are to give these mercy bees away this week to someone who could use kindness. In your last few minutes together, discuss the sort of people who may need mercy this week. Write their ideas on the board, or have them tell you who they can show mercy to this week as their parents pick them up. (Don’t let them name names, just speak in general terms. I don’t want to hear “Timmy, the school bully, needs mercy.” I would rather hear “the kid who picks on others needs mercy.” Other answers could include siblings, new classmates, the homeless man at the bus stop, parents, elderly neighbors or church members, and the teacher.)