The Lost Art of Pity

Mr-T-progress3“I DON’T WANT YOUR PITY!”  or “DON’T YOU DARE PITY ME!”  Has anyone ever said either of those to you?  

Usually, it’s a reaction based in some perceived humiliation or resentment.  Mostly though, I think it’s the church’s fault because she’s forgotten the Christian art and duty of pity.


 The next section of this post

may contain some objectionable language.

 There’s a band called “Far From Finished,” who recorded a song titled “Bastard’s Way,” which has the following chorus;



“I don’t need your pity and I don’t need your bullshit lies

And I don’t’ want your opinion on the faults of my life

You can talk all you want but I won’t hear a word you say

I’m an unforgiving prick and I’m just living the bastard’s way”


Pretty harsh, I know, but I think it captures how most people feel about “pity.”  

Even Clubber Lang (Mr. T), pitied the fool.”

“PITY” – According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, is “sympathetic sorrow toward one facing suffering or distress.”*   

Pity was expected of friends (Job 19:21), kin (Amos 1:11), and God (Ps. 90:13).

Enemies lacked pity (Psalm 17:10; Psalm 69:20; Isa. 13:18; Jer. 21:7).

Those guilty of idolatry, murder, or false witness were to be denied pity (Deut. 7:16; 13:8; 19:13).

The images of the father and shepherd illustrate God’s pity (Ps. 103:13; Isa. 49:10).

God pities the penitent (Judg. 2:18), the weak and needy (Ps. 72:13), Jerusalem in ruins (Ps. 102:13), those who fear God (Ps. 103:13), and the exiles (Isa. 49:10).

In judgment God withholds pity from God’s people (Jer. 13:14; 20:16; Lam. 2:17; 3:43; Ezek. 5:11).

Ezekiel pictured Jerusalem as an unpitied child denied the most basic postnatal care (Ezek. 16:5).

Hosea illustrated the fate of Israel with Loruchamah, a child’s name meaning “not pitied” (1:6; 2:23).

Pleas for pity are a common feature of healing narratives (Mark 9:22; Luke 17:13).

Pity moved Jesus to heal (Matt. 20:34).

Jesus used a compassionate Samaritan as an unexpected example of active pity (Luke 10:33).

Pity, or the active concern for those in need serves as evidence that one is a child of God (1 John 3:17).  Pity is not to be lashed out at.  Pity is to be sought after.  No one is above being pitied.  I think the challenge for most of us is how to practice biblical pitying.  That said, here are a few questions:

1.  How do you engage someone whom you think is pitiful?  What mental steps do you take?

2.  How is pity different from empathy or sympathy or compassion?

3.  If you are inclined to reject the pity of others, what may it indicate about your spiritual condition? 

*Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Pity. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

0 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Pity

  1. Kirk Stephens says:

    Approach circumstances with prayer, humility, patience, and yet a fast response. Be Spirit moved from the heart. Let the person know they are not your project, but your friend, brother. Do what you can to honestly address a situation, circumstance, or attitude. Never be indifferent? Sometimes it takes money, direction, kind words, always understanding, (even in different cultural situations), occasionally a gentle rebuke? Always approach the situation from a standpoint of unconditional love. Sometimes, teacher leave those kids alone? Be the observer? Darn, am I talking to myself again?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.