Saturday, January 26, 2013

Works of Mercy

Works of Mercy

I find these two lists (which have developed in the tradition of Catholic and evangelical thought over the last two millenia) to be very helpful in reviewing what all of us are called to do and be as faithful Christians in the world.

Corporal works of mercy

Corporal Works of Mercy are those that tend to bodily needs. The Parable of the Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46) enumerates such acts -- though not this precise list -- as the reason for the salvation of the saved, and the omission of them as the reason for damnation. The last work of mercy, burying the dead, comes from the Book of Tobit.

Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the Homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead

Spiritual works of mercy

Not everyone is considered capable or obligated to perform the first three spiritual works of mercy if they do not have proper tact, knowledge or training to do so. The last four are considered to be the obligation of all people without condition.

Instruct the ignorant;
Counsel the doubtful;
Admonish sinners;
Bear wrongs patiently;
Forgive offences willingly;
Comfort the afflicted;
Pray for the living and the dead.

Although there is ongoing discussion between Lutherans, Catholics, and other Christians as to whether such works of mercy are part of saving faith, or if they are the fruit  of faith, nevertheless almost all Christian communities would agree these are expected of all Christians. Just as a healthy apple tree produces apples, a person attached to Christ will produce Christ-like works of mercy. Lutherans are likely to emphasize works of mercy not as a part of saving faith, but result of saving faith. We do not do them to be forgiven, but because we have been forgiven.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (I messed up the first comment.)

    Really, we are making this much too hard. The Faith is very simple. Here are excerpts from the vigil mass tonight:

    "Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
    interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.

    "The command of the LORD is clear,
    enlightening the eye."

    Does it matter if we are saved and grow in faith by doing works, or we do works by faith and are saved? Be honest. Everyday there is a little of each.

    Luther cleared up the Faith in the 16th Century. The Church acknowledges this and is grateful. But now it is time to move on.

  3. Clint, I am leading a discussion on Lutheran understanding the Catholic Charity Movement and Works of Mercy at our local Catholic Charity Movement in Stillwater, MN. This blog entry is helpful. Do you have other resources you would recommend to this lutheran pastor who has been invited into this catholic group/setting/conversation? Thanks! -Pastor Dale Stiles, Our Savior's Lutheran, Stillwater, MN