Mercy is a door, an opening, an invitation to touch a life, to make a difference. But it is not a destination. Those of us who get stuck in mercy ministry find ourselves growing impatient with the recipients of our kindness, wondering why they don't help themselves more, feeling a growing discomfort with the half truths they tell us to justify their persistent returns for more handouts. Mercy that doesn't move intentionally in the direction of development (justice) will end up doing more harm than good--to both the giver and the recipient.
-Robert D. Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It)
Most of us know this, but a reminder never hurts.
Robert Lupton, more clearly than anyone I have read, compellingly states the need for both mercy and justice within the ministry of the church. He clearly defines justice as not simply feeding the hungry, providing drink for the thirsty, clothes for the naked, and company for the prisoner, but as the diligent work of the people of God to partner with their neighbor toward the establishment of a renewed community. This calling should not result in dependence, but empowerment and freedom to be dignified through the work required to become a healthy individual, family, neighborhood, or community.
Mercy ministry should always lead to justice. And church leaders should be compelled to think through their ministries of mercy to ensure that the work they are doing results in good over the long run, that being the dignification and development of communities.