This study guide examines the idea of having “compassion” for others compared to having “mercy” for others. As we more fully understand mercy, we learn that true mercy is a gift from Go⁠d—an everlasting gift we cannot earn on our own.

Message from Marsh: “May your personal walk with the Lord lead you to be transformed, renewed and blessed.”



Thank you for coming to:

Compassion or Mercy

( – “Original Study”)

PRAY: A suggested opening prayer for small group members or individuals to invite God to connect as we seek Him in His Word. Feel free to add your own words, “in prayer.”

Lord, our prayer is that you will enlighten us about having “compassion” for others compared to having “mercy” for others.  As we more fully understand mercy, help us learn the truth that true mercy is a gift from you Lord. It is an everlasting gift we cannot earn on our own. Amen.

For this study, we start with the Dictionary and then move into studying Scripture. Today, people seem to use the two words “compassion” and “mercy” interchangeably. They will say they have “compassion and mercy” for someone who is less fortunate, is in physical pain or dealing with a major loss in their lives. Many people truly believe that compassion and mercy mean the same thing.

In reality,  both the Dictionary and the Bible indicate that compassion and mercy are very different in meaning. But it is only through Scripture that we learn the truth about mercy, what mercy means in our personal lives, and finally, what mercy means for our Salvation.

Have you thought about the difference between the words “compassion” and “mercy,” and do you believe they are different? Why or why not?


Compassion is defined in the dictionary as: “This is a word for a very positive emotion that has to do with being thoughtful and decent. Or, sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Or, A desire to help.”

Mercy is defined in the dictionary as: “a. Kindness that makes you forgive someone, usually someone that you have authority over, b. kind and gentle treatment of someone (as a wrongdoer or opponent) having no right to it, kindness shown toward someone who you have the right to punish.”

Compassion vs Mercy: It is very interesting to see that, in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the synonyms provided for mercy (charity, clemency, forbearance, lenience, lenity, mercifulness and quarter) DO NOT include “compassion.” explains the difference between compassion and mercy:

“Although the words compassionate and merciful sound similar in meaning, there exists a difference between these two words. First, let us pay attention to the definitions of these words. Compassion can be defined as pity or concern. Hence, being compassionate is when an individual shows concern or pity towards another. Mercy, on the other hand, can be defined as forgiveness shown towards someone. Being merciful is when an individual shows mercy or gives relief to another from suffering.”

Our Prayer is that, “spending time laying a foundation for our understanding of compassion and mercy will enlighten us and give us wisdom on the difference as we delve into Scripture.”

The Scripture below is known by most people as the story of the good Samaritan. We believe it is well known worldwide by both Christians and Secular people. On the surface it appears to be a simple story of a person, a “good Samaritan” helping someone in trouble. But there are several important messages below the surface in this story. In studying this Scripture, we pray it will open your eyes and heart in moving from being compassionate to being truly merciful.

READ: Scripture Reference (Luke 30-37) Holy Bible - New International Version

³⁰ In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. ³¹ A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. ³² So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. ³³ But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. ³⁴ He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. ³⁵ The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

³⁶ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

³⁷ The expert in the law replied, the one who had mercy on him.

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We think you would agree the correct answer to Jesus’s question of who was a “good neighbor” was the Samaritan. Or, as the expert in the law answered, “the one who had mercy on him.”

Delving into the story more deeply, let’s take a look at the two individuals who “passed by on the other side.” One was a Priest and one was a Levite. A Levite is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi, who provides assistance to the Priests in worship at the Jewish Temple.

As Jesus says, the man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho. There is a high probability that the Priest and the Levite have come from the Temple in Jerusalem and were going to their homes in Jericho after fulfilling their rotating service time at the Temple.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously dangerous. First of all, there was extreme danger from thieves who frequented the area.  Secondly, the walk is difficult physically because it is approximately 17 miles distance and the altitude drop is 3,300 feet. (Jerusalem is 2,500 feet above sea level and Jericho is 800 feet below sea level. Jesus knew this area well, as he had walked the route several times. 


The Priest and the Levite may have had compassion for the traveler. The reason? Human beings can be caring, helpful, sympathetic and compassionate for their fellow man.  The Priest and Levite may have had great compassion and cared for the man. The problem, though, is that they did not act. They actually crossed to the other side of the road, probably to avoid having to take any action.

Is compassion good? Does having compassion for someone be help them? Why or Why not?


READ: Scripture Reference (James 2:15-16) Holy Bible - New International Version

¹⁵ Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. ¹⁶ If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

READ: Scripture Reference (John 3:17) Holy Bible - New International Version

¹⁷ If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

CHALLENGE:  Am I compassionate or merciful?

How have the two Scripture verses above, and what I have learned so far in this Bible Study, helped me to understand the difference between being compassionate and having mercy?


What are two things I can do in the next week to have more mercy toward others?


READ: Scripture Reference (Luke 29) Holy Bible - New International Version

²⁹ But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

This is the question that an “expert in the law” asked when he stood up to test Jesus. Jesus’s answer was the parable about the good Samaritan. Who are “you” going to be a neighbor to?


A SUGGESTED CLOSING PRAYER: Lord, based upon your great mercy for us, we have everlasting hope through Jesus Christ. Give us wisdom as we move from the passiveness of compassion into the fullness of having true mercy for others.  Amen.

All our Blessings,

Men’s Group Foundation, Inc.
(A - “Original Study”)

Did you find this study useful?

We’d love to hear your success story, ideas, or other feedback. Please send us an e-mail addressed to or use our contact page.

click the button below for A “PRINTER FRIENDLY” PDF OF this free study

Join our email list to stay in touch!

  • Get notified of updates such as when new studies are added.

  • Stay “in the know” about book giveaways (and other prizes).

  • We hate spam and will never sell or share your email address.


* indicates required