The Merciful

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The phrase “just deserts” comes from a now obsolete meaning of the word “desert” which was something a person deserved or merited. You’ve probably heard the expression applied to people who get what was coming to them. We tend to take a certain amount of pleasure when our enemies, adversaries, and those people who manage to make our lives difficult or downright miserable get their “just deserts,” which is to say they get what we feel they deserve. “Poetic justice,” we might say while watching them reap the consequences of their actions.

I recently heard the story of an Australian man who got his just deserts when he decided to siphon gas out of a large tour bus that he found parked near a tourist attraction. In case you aren’t aware, siphoning gas is a way that criminals will sometimes steal fuel out of a gas tank. They do it by inserting a plastic hose down into the tank and sucking on one end until the gasoline begins to pour out. However, little did this man know that he had inserted the hose in the sewage tank instead of the gas tank. I’ll spare you the grisly details of what followed, but suffice it to say this entire incident probably left a bad taste in his mouth.

It’s hard to have any sympathy for that guy, right? It’s way too easy to chuckle and take pleasure in seeing the tables turn on the problematic people in our lives. We tend to love it when those kinds of people get what’s coming to them. However, this delight that we experience whenever we see people get their just deserts is an emotion worth examining. Where does that delight spring from? Why does it rise so naturally in our hearts?

Of course, we’re all very glad that God doesn’t delight in seeing us get our just deserts. What we so richly deserve he withholds. What we do not deserve He freely gives.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”