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Walther on Mercy – a review

The Lord be with you

The full name of the pamphlet I’m reviewing is “Walther on Mercy: Selections on the Pastoral Office, the Congregation and the Church’s Corporate Diakonic Life.” It contains excerpts from C.F.W. Walther’s writings. Walther’s day was different from ours. He begins by suggesting people are joining “secret societies,” and forgetting the Church, because those societies are aiding people in areas of need while their church isn’t. While this may remain true today to some extent, we might well think of government aid as more prominent now. That is to say, people turn to government programs instead of the church to aid in times of need. As government is indeed a gift from God, we do not eschew such aid or call it bad. Nonetheless, the Christian does not fulfill his call to be merciful by paying taxes, nor does the Christian congregation fulfill its call to mercy simply by keeping a list of government programs to which they can refer people when they are in need. “A Christian congregation can not simply claim that there are state funds for the poor and homes for them, which they also support.”

One of the claims made against acts of mercy is that many who are undeserving of such aid receive support. How many cries have we heard about welfare fraud? Churches involved in acts of mercy often are concerned about scammers. However real such concerns are, they do not relieve us of our responsibility. However, they do call for us to be wise in our mercy missions. Walther wrote, “Where there is a distinction among the poor, particularly among those who are begging, wisdom is absolutely necessary so that one not strengthen the unworthy in their wickedness. However, because we cannot know a person’s heart, one has to be careful not to treat a person as unworthy who is in fact worthy of assistance. Therefore it is better to give to the unworthy than to deny help to someone who is actually worthy. Even if a person is not worthy, he may still be needy.”

There is much more in this document, like care for widows, burial of the dead, and so on. Walther, in making his points, quotes generously from Luther and leading Christian theologians from throughout the ages.

There are eight study questions at the end of the pamphlet. These study questions are a real aid in helping the reader translate the principles espoused in the pamphlet into our contemporary context.

The pamphlet is 23 pages long.

Walther on Mercy

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