A photo showcasing hands gently holding a worn-out Bible, symbolizing empathy and compassion as the verses on its pages remind us of the importance of understanding and caring for one another.

What Does The Bible Say About Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In today’s complex world, empathy is more important than ever. But what does the Bible say about empathy? As Christians, how are we called to empathically relate to others?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible emphasizes the importance of compassion, love, kindness, and caring for others, which are key aspects of empathy. Scriptures encourage believers to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, bearing one another’s burdens and considering others above oneself.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore numerous biblical passages about empathy, examining how God desires His followers to demonstrate care and concern for others. We will cover relevant verses from both the Old and New Testaments, analyzing the original language and context of each passage.

Additionally, we will discuss biblical examples of empathetic figures like Jesus and the Good Samaritan. Whether you are simply curious or seeking to become more empathetic in your Christian walk, this article will provide extensive insight into what the Bible teaches about empathy.

Empathy in the Old Testament

Compassion for the Vulnerable

The Old Testament emphasizes having compassion and care for vulnerable groups like the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners. God calls on His people to provide food, clothing, and justice to those in need (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Isaiah 1:17).

For instance, the book of Ruth tells a moving story of unexpected kindness shown by Boaz to the widowed Ruth. Jesus later builds on this ethic by teaching His followers to have mercy on the marginalized (Luke 10:25-37).

Weeping with Those Who Weep

There are many examples in the Old Testament of empathizing and mourning with those who are suffering. Job’s friends initially wept aloud when they saw Job’s suffering (Job 2:11-13). Jesus Himself was described as a “man of sorrows” who was familiar with grief (Isaiah 53:3).

As followers of Christ, we are called to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

The law of Moses taught the importance of caring for one another’s needs. For example, Israelites were commanded not to harvest the corners of their fields so the poor could gather food (Leviticus 23:22).

Paul writes about bearing one another’s burdens as fulfilling the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). As Jesus’ disciples, we are called to humbly serve rather than seeking status or selfish gain (Mark 10:42-45).

Overall, the Bible highlights compassion and sacrificial concern for others as a key virtue of true godliness.

Jesus as the Ultimate Model of Empathy

Jesus Understands Human Suffering

Jesus, as both God and man, fully understands the human experience of suffering and pain. When Jesus came to earth, He willingly took on the limitations of humanity and experienced the full range of human emotions and struggles (Hebrews 4:15).

During His ministry, Jesus was known as a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3). He lived in poverty, faced temptation, rejection, betrayal, and was ultimately tortured and crucified. Because of His suffering, Jesus is able to empathize with the weakness of humanity (Hebrews 4:15).

He cries with those who mourn, comforts the brokenhearted, and identifies with the marginalized. Though fully God, Jesus chose to experience human suffering so that He could relate to us in our pain. His compassion as the suffering Savior makes Him the ultimate model of empathy.

Jesus Showed Compassion to Outcasts

Throughout His ministry, Jesus consistently showed empathy and compassion to those rejected by society. He touched lepers, healed the bleeding woman, and welcomed children. Jesus dined with “sinners” and saved the woman caught in adultery from being stoned (Mark 2:15, Luke 7:36-50, Matthew 19:13-14, John 8:1-11).

His compassion knew no bounds of social propriety or custom. Jesus looked into the hearts of people that others dismissed. He saw past external labels and recognized the inherent worth in each human being. Though Himself rejected, Jesus welcomed all who came to Him with open arms of love.

He treated outsiders with value and grace, modelling true empathy that looked deeper than outward appearances.

Jesus Wept with Others

One of the most powerful examples of Jesus’ empathy is seeing Him weep alongside others. At the tomb of His friend Lazarus, Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” and began to openly weep (John 11:33-35). The Son of God mourned in grief over the devastation of death and crying loved ones.

Similarly, when Jesus overlooked Jerusalem shortly before His death, He broke into tears over the city’s coming destruction (Luke 19:41). His heart ached over the suffering that lay ahead. Finally, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was in such agony that He sweat drops of blood in anguished prayer (Luke 22:44).

He would soon bear the weight of the cross on humanity’s behalf. Jesus’ emotional solidarity with our pain is profoundly empathetic. He enters into our suffering, weeping over this fallen world and even shedding His own blood for our redemption.

The Savior who shares our tears understands the human condition like no other.

New Testament Teachings on Empathy

The Good Samaritan Parable

One of the most well-known Bible passages that teaches about empathy is the Parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. In this parable, Jesus tells the story of a man who was robbed and beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

First a priest and then a Levite passed the injured man but did nothing to help him. Finally, a Samaritan man stopped and had compassion on the man, bandaging his wounds and taking him to an inn to recover.

Jesus concludes the parable by telling His listeners to “go and do likewise” and show mercy to those in need (Luke 10:37). This illustrates how believers should set aside social, ethnic, or religious barriers in order to empathize with suffering people.

Rejoicing and Weeping Together

The New Testament talks about rejoicing and weeping together as part of living in spiritual community. Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This means sharing in the emotions, experiences, and lives of fellow believers.

By feeling their joy and their pain, Christians enter into a deeper communion with one another. They support each other through life’s ups and downs. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 12:26 states “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

This unity enables the church to show empathy and care for its members.

Considering Others Above Yourself

Philippians 2:3-4 declares, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” This well-known passage urges believers to resist pride and self-centeredness.

Instead, Christians are called to view others as more important than themselves. They should care deeply about the wellbeing, needs, and concerns of fellow believers. By humbly considering others above oneself, empathy comes more naturally.

This orientation aligns believers more closely with the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ.

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Developing Empathy as a Christian

Cultivating Compassion

As Christians, we are called to cultivate compassion and empathy for others. Here are some ways we can develop empathy:

  • Pray for God to give you His heart of compassion. Ask Him to break your heart for what breaks His.
  • Spend time reading and meditating on biblical passages about compassion like the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
  • Volunteer at local charities and get to know people in need. Seeing their humanity firsthand grows empathy.
  • Listen without judgement when people share problems. Suspend any advice and simply be present.
  • Give generously to ministries serving vulnerable groups like the poor, orphaned, and widowed.

As we open our hearts to others, God increases our capacity for empathy. We reflect His love more beautifully in our communities.

Active Listening

Active listening is a powerful way Christians can grow in empathy. When someone is hurting, our instinct is to fix or dismiss their pain. Active listening suspends those impulses. Instead we focus completely on understanding the other person’s perspective. Components of active listening include:

  • Maintaining eye contact and facing the speaker to show engagement.
  • Reflecting back what you hear using phrases like “What I’m hearing is…” to check understanding.
  • Asking open-ended questions to encourage sharing like “What was that like for you?”
  • Not interrupting or thinking about your response while the other is speaking.
  • Summarizing the speaker’s key feelings and offering empathy.

Active listening diffuses conflict and deepens intimacy. The speaker feels truly heard and valued. As Christians, when we offer this gift of presence we reveal Christ’s compassion in a powerful way.

Stepping Into Others’ Shoes

A valuable empathy building practice is stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person. Picture what life looks like from their perspective. What emotions might they be feeling? What challenges might they be facing? How might theirneeds differ from your own?

The Bible urges us to look out for the interests of others above our own (Philippians 2:4). Stepping into their shoes keeps us from projecting our assumptions and deepens understanding. We can ask ourselves questions like:

  • If I was in their situation, what would mean the most to me?
  • How might I behave or communicate differently if I faced their limitations?
  • What emotions might I feel if I experienced what they are going through?

Making this empathetic leap requires humility and imagination. But it aligns our hearts more closely with Jesus’ care for each unique individual.


In conclusion, the Bible clearly emphasizes the importance of empathy, compassion, and caring concern for others. Throughout Scripture, believers are exhorted to love their neighbors, bear their burdens, rejoice and weep together, and follow Christ’s ultimate example of empathy.

As Christians seeking to become more like Jesus, we must actively cultivate empathy skills like compassion, active listening, and perspective-taking. While it may be challenging at times, empathizing with others is central to living out biblical principles of love, kindness, and unity within the body of Christ.

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