In some ways I feel I have the best of all Christian worlds. I grew up Catholic, was encouraged in my conversion by a Southern Baptist lady, and passed through the Quakers and Pentecostals before settling for 27 years in an evangelical, charismatic Episcopal Church. When they went off the rails with Bishop Robinson, I became Anglican and now I attend the congregation of a friend who is a priest in the CEC (Charismatic Episcopal Church). I can honestly say I have been spiritually blessed. God has been utterly merciful to me. I deserve non of it.
But I guess that is the point of Lent, returning to the realization that we don’t deserve anything from God. McDonalds ran a successful advertising campaign on the musical slogan, “You deserve a break today.” I can still remember the countless times that little ditty has run through my mind to justify one indulgence or another. I succumbed to the temptation the slogan offered and to this day I am still fighting the aftereffects of that advertisement.
Contrary to that image conjured up to entice us to treat ourselves to a break at our local McDonalds and the ancillary effects giving into that enticement brings, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about a hard working servant in Luke 17:7-10
Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come at once and recline at table”? Will he not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink?” Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Luke 17:7-10
If anyone deserved a break it was the servant who had been working all day, but instead he is called upon to serve his master.
So the question I ask myself today is, “Do I really deserve a break?” The easy and facile answer is, “No! Jesus said so.” The harder answer is why the no? Since all things work together for our good why would God not allow us to feel like we deserve a rest from our laboring? Now understand, we are not talking about a short rest to refresh yourself so you can return to work renewed. That is only the practical demands of our body. Yet, even those are not deserved in a real sense. Those rests are necessary for us to operate at an optimum level. We are talking about a sense of entitlement, of feeling that because we put in a good hours or a good day’s work in the fields of the Lord (back to unique and personal here) that we are entitled to a reward, a break from God’s demands on our lives. No. One of the great tests of our Christian lives is coming to terms with the fact that Gods demands, expectations, and yes, plan for our lives knows no break. It is 24 X 7 X 365. God doesnt even take off leap year.
So, with that in mind, it is not too far of a stretch to see that sense of entitlement as “works religion.” Hey, I did the pain, I deserve the gain. How is “earn your own salvation” any different than that, once you strip away the niceties? Isn’t that one of the root arguments our flesh continually throws up against God and the demands of his law and justice? Don’t we, at the foundation of our fallen nature, feel that we just deserve it (not to steal eBay’s advertisement), whatever IT is? Doesnt that sense of entitlement lie at the root of our spiritual brokenness?
I would venture that this is the real never-ending story, the demands of Gods justice and holiness on our lives. If not for Christ where would we be? Me, Id be dead by now. By his grace, I am not poking up daisies and by his grace will continue to write to his honor and glory.
So family of God, what do you feel entitled to today? How do you propose to deal with that?
May the grace of God, made effective in our lives by the sacrifice of Christ, help to expose your entitlements, to bring them out into the light of day. And may God, who is all merciful and kind, forgive us for our failings, ever teaching us to forgive others with the same enthusiasm we seek our own forgiveness. Amen
If these meditations interest you, you might find some helpful thoughts in last year’s Lenten observance. This link will load all of last year’s postings. Later postings are on top so just scroll to the bottom of the page to see the beginning.