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Why Does Mercy Triumph over Judgment?

Why Does Mercy Triumph over Judgment?

In the second chapter of James 2:13, you will find this verse.

“…because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

For a moment I want to focus on the last four words of this verse, “mercy triumphs over judgment.” When you read those four words naturally that should lead you to ask why does mercy triumph over judgment? What are the qualities and characteristics of mercy that cause this to happen? To help gain some clarity, I want to share with you four reasons why mercy triumphs over judgment.

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What is mercy? What is judgment?

In the most basic of definitions, mercy is when we don’t receive what we deserve. For example, you are speeding down the highway going 84 miles per hour in a 65 zone. (I am not saying I have done this, I am just making an analogy.) Out of the blue, you pass a trooper who has the radar gun focused on your car. As you pass you see the trooper pull out, he catches up to you, and then the flashing lights come on and he pulls you over. He comes to the car, tells you how fast you were going, and instead of giving you a ticket which you deserve he simply says please slow down and have a nice day. This is mercy.

On the other hand, judgment can have several meanings. It can be the right to render a verdict, but it can also mean a decision, an evaluation, or even condemnation. In the same scenario, the trooper could have rendered a verdict and given you a ticket at that moment. That would have been a form of judgment. With the understanding of the two let's now figure out why mercy triumphs over judgment. To best understand this, I want to consider this in the light of God’s mercy and God’s judgment.

1. No one deserves mercy.

The interesting thing about mercy is that not one of us deserves it. According to Romans 3:23, we have all sinned and fallen short of what God requires. This means that we all deserve to be judged by God for our sins. He would be within his legal authority to pronounce judgment on us, however, he doesn’t – at least not immediately and not for the reason you would think. God uses judgment but there is something that judgment cannot accomplish that only mercy can. This leads to the second reason.

2. Judgment brings correction, mercy brings connection.

2. Judgment brings correction, mercy brings connection.

When God brings judgment to a person, let’s say you or I am living in sin and God brings judgment to our door because of the sin. The purpose of that judgment is to bring correction. However, judgment alone cannot re-establish our relationship with him because judgment is based on punishment and fear. It is his mercy that allows us to connect with him in relationship. One of the greatest examples of this is seen in the parable of the two sons, which we call the Prodigal Son. After spending all of his money and living a wild lifestyle he came to his senses. He recognized the error of his ways. He decided to return to his father and expected to receive judgment. Notice what he said.

I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’Luke 15:18-19

The son was ready to receive the consequence for his actions. He would have been back in the father’s house but he would no longer have seen himself as his son. If that would have been the result the judgment would have corrected his actions, but he still would have not been connected to the father. However, if you are familiar with the story, the father reacted quite differently. This is where mercy came into play.

“…But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”Luke 15:20

This demonstration of mercy from the father, re-established or re-connected the relationship with his son. This is one big reason why mercy triumphs over judgment because it helps us once again walk in fellowship with our heavenly Father.

3. God pours out judgment so he can pour out mercy.

We often view judgment in the wrong light. The purpose of judgment in this life is to lead you to mercy. What is fascinating about God is that his first desire is always to pour out mercy, however, sometimes he uses judgment to get to that point. I am going to give you two examples to help you understand this.

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The Nation of Israel

When you read the book of Judges you will recognize there was a pattern of behavior that the nation followed. Here is how it typically went.

  • Peace
  • Sin
  • Judgment
  • Repentance
  • Repeat

The nation of Israel would experience a time of peace but then they would get trapped in the sins of the nations around them leading them to turn their backs on God. God would then bring judgment, which would cause them to cry out to God for help, and in doing this God would then extend mercy and peace would be restored to the land. God’s desire was to get to mercy but he used judgment to bring them to the place where they would ask for it.

The Greater Example – Jesus

The greatest example of God using judgment to get to mercy is Jesus. God poured out his wrath and judgment for sin on Jesus so that in doing so he could offer us mercy and give to us something we truly don’t deserve to receive. Isaiah 53 is a reminder of this.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.Isaiah 53:5-6

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities. – Isaiah 53:10-11

God exercised his right to judge sin by the death of Christ on the cross. However, he did that so that he could offer us mercy and not have to give us what we truly deserve.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:21

God’s ultimate desire was to display mercy however he used judgment to get there.

Epistle of James, half-brother of Jesus

4. One Final Reason Why Mercy Triumphs over Judgment

The last reason I want to share why mercy triumphs over judgment has nothing to do with God but with us. Let’s return to the verse in James for a moment.

“…because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

One of the things that cannot be overlooked is a reason why we should extend mercy. We give mercy because we have received it and when we truly understand the mercy we have received, we will always choose to exercise mercy over judgment. In other words when you understand the nature of mercy that you have received the only response is to give it to someone else. In doing so you are responding like the Father, offering mercy when judgment is deserved and in doing so causing mercy to triumph over judgment.


Where are you today? Some of you might be separated from God or living in sin and things may not be going well, because of your choices. Understand that could be a way of God bringing judgment so he can get you to the place where he can show you mercy. God’s mercies are new every morning so if you need it simply ask him for it. His first desire is to pour it out, but he will only do that when you ask.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.Psalm 103:8 (NLT)

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Clarence Haynes 1200x1200Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club.  He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com