What we deserve

We’ve all said it. “I don’t deserve this!”

It’s an auto response to a negative circumstance, an outright wrong, an injustice or just an annoyance.

Who admits they deserve a speeding ticket, a job loss, a sickness, a divorce, an insult? Our human tendency is to place blame outside ourselves for whatever goes wrong.

Yet, we effortlessly own any positive thing that comes our way:  a promotion, a handy parking space, a settlement from a class action lawsuit to which we didn’t know we were a party.

We think we just had that coming. We were overdue for a blessing, good luck, good fortune.

Reality is less black and white.

God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust, a benefit to both. He does so because He is gracious — not because either deserves it. (Matthew 5:45)

In the bizarre way life works, good things happen to the wicked. Likewise, bad things happen to the “good.” It is unwise to make judgments about character or relationship to God based on circumstances. The Bible provides ample examples.

  1. Naomi’s husband moved the family from Bethlehem to Moab to escape a famine. He and both her sons died there, leaving Naomi widowed and alone in a foreign land
  2. In a single day, Job, a righteous man, learned a house had collapsed leaving his 10 children dead – 7 sons and 3 daughters – while all his livestock was destroyed or stolen. Ruined financially and grieving, he later broke out in skin sores. As he sat among ashes scraping his wounds, his wife encouraged him to curse God and die.
  3. In the New Testament, Jesus commented that a man was born blind not because someone sinned but so that the glory of God might be revealed.

To the natural way of thinking, none of that makes sense. It doesn’t seem fair. Didn’t these folks deserve better? Don’t we?

Demanding what we “deserve” reveals our lack of understanding. We are not good people who deserve a reward. The best of us fall short of God’s perfection. We’ve all sinned. (Romans 3:23) Each of us is born into the death penalty. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

Death is what we deserve. We’ve earned it. The good we experience in life is because of God’s grace and mercy. Grace gifts us the good we do not deserve. Mercy softens the harsh judgment that we actually should receive.

Good is not our due. And bad cannot always be attributed to our own sin. Life is way more complicated than that. God allows things to happen that on their face are not good. But, in His sovereignty, He works it all together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Back to our examples: Naomi returns to Bethlehem with a daughter-in-law who marries again and becomes the mother of Obed who is in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Job is restored with a new appreciation for the greatness of God, more children and wealth double what he had before. The blind man receives his sight, a testimony of Christ’s power and a judgment against the spiritually blind who thought they could see.

Stuff happens. Life is less about what we deserve and more about whether we love God and trust Him to work out His good purpose in us no matter what.