There are those who believe that doing mercy work overseas does nothing but make fat happy American Christians feel good about themselves.

“Grace removes guilt, mercy removes misery.”[1]  Out of purely divine grace God removed our guilt through the blood of Christ, and as someone said “I can’t imagine he was feeling very good about us on Good Friday”.  Mercy seems to have a different character. Mercy feels someone else’s pain and is then moved to help bear and alleviate that pain. It is seeing need and wanting to fix the need, or share in the burden.  It has nothing about the world’s idea of mercy in it.  The Christian who has received God’s grace does not react like the world does in its mercy anthem, “there is a choice we’re making; we’re saving our own lives”.[2]

Yet even if there were a motive among the myriad motives, is wanting to feel good about what we do inherently wrong?  Is having the sense that we are doing the right thing in say, how we spend our money as a witness, a bad thing?  Luther wrote, “Our property will not help us into heaven, when we fail and have to leave everything on earth, but when we make of unrighteous mammon righteous, that is, when we bring mammon from the wrong to the right use; and when we help the poor … we demonstrate our faith and witness that we are upright Christians and heirs of eternal life.”[3]

[1] Richard Chenevix Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament. Edited by Robert G. Hoerber. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989)

[2] Michael Jackson, “We Are The World”, 1985

[3] Martin Luther, “House Postil for the 9th Sunday of Trinity”.  Translated by Richard Caemmerer