Posted by: glorifyhim1 | October 29, 2012

More or Less Than I Deserve

 

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by God’s blessings to me – His grace that gives me so much more than I deserve. At other times I am amazed over the retribution that God withholds from me – His mercy that gives me so much less than I deserve. In one case I feel I deserve less, but feel so blessed to receive more. In the other I feel I deserve more, but am amazed to receive less. But  sometimes, like the Pharisee, I forget.

Jesus told the following story about a Pharisee and a tax collector:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Luke 18:10-14)

The Pharisee in the above story is playing by all the rules. He fasts, tithes, and does the right things – and he is very proud of all that he does. The tax collector, on the other hand, has nothing to boast about. Instead, he just calls out for God’s mercy. Jesus concludes that the tax collector, not the Pharisee, would leave justified before God. The tax collector would receive so much more blessing than he deserved – and so much less punishment than he deserved. He would undoubtedly leave overwhelmed with the goodness, faithfulness, and absolute wonder of his God.

But what about the Pharisee? I actually feel kind of sorry for him because whether we like to admit it or not, there’s just a little bit of him in all of us (at least at one time or another).

  • We try to earn our standing before God. We go to church, volunteer for myriad activities, give our tithes and offerings, etc. But we do it for all the wrong reasons. Our service becomes a list to complete in order to measure up instead of joyful acts of service and love.
  • We try to justify ourselves in God’s eyes by comparing ourselves to others – I do more, I give more, I read my Bible more. We tend to think we’re okay if we can show that we’re better than someone else. We forget that in God’s eyes, we are all sinners. The only thing a Christian has to boast about is Jesus!
  • We look at everything based on the all-important “I.” Notice the number of “I’s” in the short passage above. Instead of looking at the world through our “I” glasses, we need to pray for the Spirit to help us see as God sees.
  • We don’t really seek God, but what we think is right. The passage above states that the Pharisee “stood and prayed thus with himself.” He’s not really talking to God; he’s reasoning with himself.

When the Pharisee left and went home, I wonder how he felt. Did he feel he deserved more of God’s blessings since he lived such a better, more devoted, life than the tax collector?  If he actually received less than he felt he deserved, did he feel the need to work harder and do even more to try to justify himself before God? Or did he become angry with God, angry at the tax collector, or just give up?

I hope that the Pharisee learned what another tax collector learned. Luke tells the story of Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector. Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming into Jericho and he wanted to see Him. But Zacchaeus was too short to see above the crowd so he climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when He passed by. When Jesus came to the tree where Zacchaeus was, He told Zacchaeus to come down from the tree because he needed to stay at his house. Zaccaheus was overjoyed and after spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus told him: “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8). From his simple encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus’ life was totally transformed. Zacchaeus learned that he didn’t have to be good enough or deserving enough for Jesus to seek him, save him, and turn his life around.

I find that I need to be reminded of this lesson from time to time as well. God doesn’t bless me because I’m good enough or do all the right things. He doesn’t show His mercy because I deserve it. God extends both His mercy and His grace because of who He is, not because of who or what I am. Zacchaeus was so transformed by Jesus’ love that he eagerly sought to help others, giving half of his goods to the poor. Furthermore, if he had wronged anyone, he went beyond what the law required, stating he would restore four times more than he had taken. Zacchaeus loved – not because he was supposed to, expected to, or required to – but because he wanted to love others as Jesus had loved him. Can I do any less? After all, Jesus surely deserves it!

 

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