Proverbs 11:17

The Merciful and the Cruel


1. Once again, Solomon draws a contrast. This time, it is between two very different types of people—kind and mean!

2. He also makes a wise observation about each…

17a The merciful man doeth good to his own soul…

1. The merciful man described…

a. Merciful: goodness; kindness;

b. Prov. 14:31 – Often showing mercy was expressed by helping a person in need…
• Showing mercy was a very practical expression of one’s faith.
• Showing mercy to the poor is one of the ways that we demonstrate that we genuinely honor God!

c. Ps. 112:4 – a good man shows favor or grace to others; he helps the needy… he is merciful!

d. Prov. 3:3-4 – Solomon commanded Old Testament saints to bind mercy about their neck and not forsake her. Wear mercy as an ornament!

e. Col. 3:12 – as believers, we are to put on bowels of mercies… it is part of the clothing of the new man. Wear mercy as clothing!
• Our old man is quite selfish; he wants others to show kindness to him.
• The new man looks beyond himself to others. He is more interested in giving than getting.

f. Rom. 12:8 – we are to show mercy to others—and to do it with cheerfulness!

g. It is stated in Luke that the Good Samaritan showed “mercy” to the poor soul who was beaten and left for dead. He showed compassion and took care of the man’s needs… that’s mercy.

2. Good to his own soul…

a. Here Solomon states that those who show mercy help others… but they are also helping themselves! They are GIVING… but they receive a blessing from it too.

b. It IS better to give than to receive…
• Giving to the poor or helping others is good—it helps that other person.
• But the one GIVING is doubly blessed!
• His gift may help another man’s belly… but his giving results in a greater blessing to his own soul!

c. Matt. 5:7 – BLESSED are the merciful—for they shall receive mercy… from God!

d. Prov. 14:21 – he that hath mercy on the poor; happy is he!

e. Psa. 18:25 – God shows mercy on those who show mercy to others!

f. II Sam. 22:26 – With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful…

g. Ps. 41:1 – the Lord delivers and protects those who show mercy to others.

h. When we show mercy to others, God blesses us ten fold!

3. Be careful about the motivation…

a. We ARE to show mercy to others.

b. And the giver gets a bigger blessing than the receiver.

c. BUT—we are not to give IN ORDER to get!

d. In other words, we are not to give to others SO THAT God will give to us 7 fold!

e. I have heard charismatic preachers tell their listeners to give generously to their ministry SO THAT God would bless them 7 fold!
• The idea was, if you give me $100.00, God will send in $700.00 to you!
• He was encouraging people to give in order to get more back!
• The motivation in that kind of giving was not mercy. It was pure greed! Covetousness! Selfishness!
• The charismatic preacher called it “faith giving.” I call it a religious scam!
• While I do not know any individual’s heart—it is hard for me to believe that those men do not know exactly what they are doing—twisting scripture for their own advantage!
• Jude would say, “Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward!”
• And not only are THEY greedy, but they are promoting greed.
• Nothing could be further from the kind of mercy… selfless giving… the Scriptures describe!

f. Yes, showing mercy DOES do good to our own soul… but that is not the reason for showing mercy.
• The reason or motivation ought to stem from a genuine desire to help… from a heart of compassion… from gratitude for what God has done for us…
• And especially because Christ lives in us… and as we are yielded to Him, His life and character is manifested through us!
• Christ shows mercy to others THROUGH us… we are “channels only.”
• But as Solomon says, what a blessing it is to BE a channel through whom God’s mercy flows!
• There is a joy that comes through showing mercy—a joy that is only experienced IF our motives are right.
• If we show mercy to someone else because we really want God to do something for us—don’t kid yourself. God knows our hearts.
• But when we show mercy out of compassion and a desire to show God’s mercy to others—then God knows that heart too.
• With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful…

17b But he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.

1. Cruel: cruel; mean; fierce; merciless; (Here this is the opposite of one who shows mercy)

2. Prov. 27:4 – angry wrathful men are often cruel—mean spirited to others.

3. Cruelty can manifest itself in 10,000 different ways…

a. There are bullies who are cruel or unkind to the other kids at school

b. There are bullies who are cruel to the other workers at the office or in the plant—perhaps you work with one… mean spirited!

c. Sometimes kings and political leaders can be cruel to their own people… Stalin… Saddam Hussein…

d. Cruelty can take the form of prejudice… bigotry…

e. Cruelty can take the form of harming the innocent and the helpless… like abortion…

f. Cruelty can take the form of spreading gossip and rumors in order to inflict pain on someone…

g. Cruelty today takes on the form of scam artists who take advantage of the elderly…

h. And there are various DEGREES of cruelty—from name calling to genocide!

i. I don’t need to go on and on about the various forms cruelty can take.

j. We have all been hurt by the cruelty of others.

k. We have all BEEN cruel to others—by the things we have said or done…

4. Troubleth his own soul…

a. Jas. 2:13 – he shall have judgment without mercy who showed no mercy!

b. James 5:1-4 – rich men who oppress the poor trouble their own souls… the Lord hears the cries of the poor… and is observing all that transpires.

c. Those who are cruel are always troubled by it…
• Gen. 42:21 -Joseph’s brothers were tormented by their cruelty.
• The Egyptians who put the Jews under hard taskmasters were later troubled. They discovered that they had poked God in the apple of His eye… and incurred His wrath!
• Paul when he stood by and consented to the stoning of Stephen—he was later tormented by that!
• The king of Babylon who had all of Zedekiah’s sons slain before his eyes, then he poked out his eyes… that king must have had a hard time getting to sleep for a while…
• The men and women who inflicted cruelty upon others have to live with themselves… and have to live with the guilt…
• Mean people are MISERABLE! Not only will they face God for their sin in the life to come—right now they are condemned to live with themselves… their own miserable self!
• Blessed and happy are the merciful. Miserable are the mean!

d. Not only must they live with the guilty conscience, they also may have to deal with the effects of their cruelty!
• Cruelty incurs the wrath of God! Think of the ignoble death of Ahab and Jezebel… dogs licking her blood!
• Cruelty often incurs the wrath of man… seeking revenge for the cruelty done to them… or to their family… or friends…

e. Cruelty breeds trouble…
• Trouble: to trouble; stir up; disturb; bring calamity upon…
• Cruel people do not WANT to stir up trouble or calamity upon themselves, but they do…
• This is one of the consequences of the sin of cruelty…
• You can’t be cruel without consequences…
• Cf. vs.19—
• Prov. 11:29 – troubling one’s own household. How? Cruelty is one way! Be mean spirited to your spouse… to your kids… to your parents… and you are troubling your own house!

Summary: you reap what you sow! Sow mercy, and you will reap good for your soul. Sow cruelty and you will reap trouble!