Here are 7 of my favorite Bible verses on compassion. What ones might you include?
The word compassion is a compound word meaning with (con) passion (great love and pity). The Greek word for compassion used in the New Testament is “splagchnizomai” and this verb means “to be moved from the bowels” which is a Jewish idiom meaning “having deep compassion” since they believed the bowels were thought to be the seat of emotions like love and pity. Don’t we feel something in our stomach when we are moved greatly with passionate feelings like grief, sorry, heartache, pain or sympathy? This is not feeling sorry for someone necessarily but it is having a deep, abiding compassion for people and their plight in life.
Matthew 9:36 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Have you ever felt that way? Have you felt compassion about those who don’t yet know Christ and haven’t yet received eternal life? When Jesus looked at the crowds and knowing their future, He knew that they were like sheep that were helpless without a shepherd, particularly, Jesus the Great Shepherd. They were lost without believing in Him (John 3:17-18) and maybe that’s part of the reason He had such compassion on them. What about you? Ever feel compassion for the lost?
Matthew 20:34 “Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”
Once again, Jesus was moved with compassion but this time He was moved when two blind men were begging for His help (Matt 20:29-30) and “they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” “And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” Do we have such compassion on those who are visually impaired or worse, blind? How about those who have hearing impairments or physical disabilities?
Luke 19:41-42 “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
Knowing that it is never God’s desire that any should perish, (2 Pet 3:9) Jesus proves this by weeping over those who He knew would reject Him. The Greek word for “wept” is not just a simple weeping or crying but as the Greek word “klaiō” means “to mourn, to lament, to show grief” so Jesus knew what was to come for the city in time (Luke 19:43-44) and was likely referring to the destruction of Jerusalem where thousands upon thousands would be mercilessly killed in AD 70.
First Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”
Peter couples compassion with humility since they naturally fit together. You are being humble when you are compassionate about others. When you are truly compassionate about someone and their condition, you are being humble, esteeming them or regarding their state or even their future. Peter tells the church to live like this; in harmony, being sympathetic, loving as brothers, and to be compassionate and humble. The Greek word for sympathy is “sympathies” meaning “suffering or feeling the like with another” and the adjective for “compassionate” is “eusplagchnos” and literally means “having strong bowels” which we have read means to have a deep, abiding compassion and love for people.
Hebrews 13:3 “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”
Let me confess to you many years ago before I was saved, I was in prison and no one came to visit me. Not my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, my cousins, nor any of my friends. I was forsaken so to me, this verse tells me we should have compassion for those who are in prison. Yes, they likely deserve to be there, but aren’t we all really sinners at heart (Rom 3:23)? That’s why I am so excited that our church has a prison ministry and we are teaming with a ministry that sends money, stamps, and Bible study materials all free, to prisoners in the State of Kansas. I like how the author of Hebrews puts it; “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.”
Luke 15:20 “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is never called that in the Bible. Perhaps we could call it the Father of the Prodigal Son instead because the son took his inheritance and squandered it all and that was basically an insult to the father as the son was essentially saying “I wish you were dead give me my inheritance now.” The prodigal’s father represents God and the son represents all of us sinners who don’t deserve the Father’s mercy, yet the Father had been waiting and looking for the son because “while he (the son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” In those days and in that culture I would venture to say even in our culture the father would have never ran and most fathers in that day would have not been looking for their son to come back, neither would they have felt compassion and run out to greet him and embrace him. That is one the strongest uses of the word compassion that I could find in the Bible. Rather than rebuke the prodigal, the father ran to greet him, embraced him, kissed him and then threw a feast for him and said “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24).
Luke 10:33-34 “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.”
This verse is from the Parable of the Good Samaritan and shows that those whom the Jews despised (the Samaritans) wouldn’t so much as lift a finger and even went out of their way to avoid this man who was half dead and included those who should have showed compassion; a Levite and a priest (Luke 10:30-32). Not only does the Samaritan show compassion, he cleans up his wounds with expensive oil and wine, he transports him to an inn and puts him up at his own expense and makes sure that he’s taken care of. He gives the innkeeper two denarii (two days wages) and told the innkeeper “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back” (Luke 10:35). That is more than talk that is compassion in action.
I could have included so many more like Proverbs 19:17 which says “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” since John says that “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17) and as Jesus said “if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward” (Matt 10:42). That is true compassion. God has compassion for you if you haven’t repented yet. If only you will repent and come to Him and trust in Christ. That will ensure that the Day of Judgment that is coming will go well with you.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon