“When will I ever get what I deserve?”
I’ve been letting this question roll around in my mind for a month or so now. Not necessarily because there’s something I’ve been waiting for that I think I earned, but because I’ve heard the word “deserve” thrown around so much and so easily, both when people talk to me as well as when I eavesdrop on others.
“You deserve someone great.”
“You deserve better than that.”
“You really deserve a break.”
“You deserved a celebration!”
I’m to the point now when I don’t like using the word “deserve.” I recently graduated from college, and I’ve been told that I “deserved” to have a party. I actually disagree (though I really appreciated my party and had a cracking time, thanks mom.) I disagree because when I was in college, I spent countless afternoons playing Xbox for hours and hours. I disagree because I skipped class so many times. I had my nose glued to my phone playing games and checking Facebook. How exactly did I “deserve” any more of a party than I have already had?
I think it’s also funny when people use the word “deserve” in talking about romantic relationships. I sometimes think about how great of a girl I “deserve” based on my merits of not having past relationships, baggage, etc. or the fact that I’m actively in ministry, I’m a “good Christian guy,” etc. and then I realize how rubbish that is because relationships change things and change people, and a person who goes into a relationship does not come out the same! Responses to people—friends, family, even your boyfriend/girlfriend—as a single person compared to as a person in a relationship are completely different! I reflect on my relationship with my now-ex-girlfriend and think that I probably wasn’t as “good” of a Christian guy as I liked to think I was, and that the way I approached the relationship wasn’t what I’d envisioned in my head. Do I really “deserve” to be in a relationship?
For that matter, when did relationships become an entitlement? Why is it that, as people, we assume we are licensed to a spouse? As I once heard a politician say, marriage is a privilege, not a right. But that’s another matter altogether.
Realistically, don’t you think that as a race, we’d have caught on to the idea that we really don’t ‘deserve’ anything? How many times do we have to ask questions such as “when will I get what I deserve” or “why do bad things happen to good people” before we understand this? Let me ask you another question: why do good things happen to bad people? Why does an upright, well-standing man who is responsible with his finances, takes care of his body, and fiercely loves his family get diagnosed with leukemia, while the man who beats his wife and smokes a pack a day get a promotion at work and have a doctor’s appointment that reveals he’s doing great? Why does a drunk driver hit another car at 60 miles an hour, killing or injuring a car full of kids while he walks away practically unscathed?
The answer is simple: life isn’t fair.
The beauty of that statement, however, is that there is so much I deserve that I’m not getting because in His mercy, God extends common grace—things such as shelter, food, clothing—to take care of His people. The legal response to sin is death—that’s its ‘wages’ (Romans 6:23) like I earn wages at my job for the work I do—so every time I sin (which is often enough to warrant some serious death, even though Jesus does live in me and He is sanctifying me, and making me more like him) I should be rewarded or paid with death, not mercy. But there is common grace extended to all humanity, which is the grace wrapped up in the promise that God will not destroy the earth again like He did after the flood, and there’s saving grace, which is above common grace. Saving grace wipes out the sin debt that is accumulated by everything I do which should be rewarded with death.
Common grace is like owing the IRS, but they’re not calling you all the time to remind you of that debt. You still owe it, but you’re allowed to spend your money however you’d like.
Saving grace is like the IRS calling you up and saying the debt is forgiven.
This metaphor is imperfect because you may be able to pay back the IRS, but you can’t pay back God. Fortunately, you don’t have to because Jesus did. So why stop at common grace when you can get saving grace?
Why stop at not getting what you deserve when you can get what you really don’t deserve?