The merciful man does good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubles his own flesh.
Our great temptation, and therefore our great peril, is to look at all things in a selfish light; to ask ourselves, concerning each event as it unfolds itself - How will it affect me? This is very far indeed from the spirit of Christ; his spirit is that of unselfishness, of generous regard for the welfare of others. To bear one another's burdens is to fulfil his law and to reproduce his life. Yet is there one respect in which we certainty do well to consider ourselves. We do well to pay very particular attention to the effect of our conduct on our own character, to ask ourselves - How are these actions of mine telling on my manhood? Are they building up, or are they causing to crumble and decay? The consideration is twofold.
I. THE INJURY WE MAY DO OURSELVES, ESPECIALLY BY UNKINDNESS. "He that is cruel troubleth his own flesh." Habitual cruelty does even more harm to itself than to its victim. That indeed is bad enough; for it is not only the present suffering which is inflicted by it; it is the diseased sensitiveness and the abjectness of spirit; it it the loss of courage and of confidence and of hopefulness that is left behind, which is the deepest and the darkest mark of cruelty on the object of it. But worse than ever, this is the moral injury which cruelty does to itself. It not only
(1) calls down the strong condemnation of man, and
(2) draws forth the strong rebuke and penalty of God;
(3) it indurates the soul of the sinner. It makes him shockingly insensitive to human suffering. It may go so far as to cause him to take a savage and a diabolical delight in inflicting and in witnessing it. Thus it drags a man down to the very lowest levels. And what is true of cruelty, or of unkindness which very soon becomes cruelty, is true in other ways of other sins. All wrong doing, falsehood, dishonesty, lasciviousness, profanity, covetousness, intemperance, makes its mark and leaves its stain upon the soul of the evil doer; and the further he goes and the deeper he continues in sin, the deeper is the mark and the darker and broader is the stain.
II. THE BLESSING WE MAY BRING UPON OURSELVES, ESPECIALLY BY KINDNESS. "The merciful man doeth good to his own soul." Mercy may here stand for any form of kindness or of goodness of heart. It will include kindliness of manner, generosity of disposition, practical helpfulness, pity for those who suffer or are sad, patience with the erring and the froward, magnanimity under ill treatment, considerateness toward the weak and the unprivileged. All these forms of "mercy" bring a blessing to the merciful heart. They secure the appreciation and the affection of the best among men; they gain the approval and benediction of God. And they react with most valuable benignity on the heart itself. They contribute to:
1. A tenderness of spirit, a responsiveness of heart, which allies us very closely to our Divine Lord.
2. An excellency and even nobility of action which makes us "the children of our Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:45).
3. A breadth of sympathy and largeness of view which make us ourselves truly wise and worthy in the sight of God. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.