Mike and I are down in Tampa with Graham, Shay, Chloe and her new baby sister Vera who was born last month.  Chloe and I were at the playground yesterday.  In between playing ‘Princess’ I was reading about a local doctor , 51 years young,  who has just been diagnosed with ALS.  He’s the kind of ‘good’ man who has given tirelessly of himself to pre-med students, medical students, fellow doctors and the community.  The tone of the article had a kind of Rabbi ‘Kushneresque’ feel.  Kushner is the one who wrote a book, attempting to answer the perennial question, “When bad things happen to good people.”   It seems ‘unfair’ of God that after serving others for years, this local Tampa man faces a painful death.  Don’t he ‘deserve’ better?

Our natural reaction, our sense of entitlement is prevalent among Christians and non-Christians alike.  We all can think of missionaries, pastors and other unselfish people who have suffered tremendously and/or died an untimely death. The world recoils.  But Christians should understand, after all, ‘they crucified Jesus’! Why should we expect any different?

I’ve been studying the Jerry Bridges book on grace (Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love).   What I am beginning to glimpse is that not only do we not deserve anything good, but when we think we are doing good and earning blessing points, we haven’t a clue.

Take the parable of the workers hired at different hours.  I totally understand the indignation of the ones who worked all day in the sun.  I would have reasoned like them and felt disappointed not to be paid more.  Even though my hope for at least ‘time and a half’ would have been based on wishes and not logic, I would have convinced myself that I ‘deserved’ more.

Jerry Bridges nails his point, though, when he illustrates this principle of faulty ‘I-deserve’ thinking with a story of a college course.  As a good student who did her work I pridefully enjoyed earning ‘A’s and teachers’ praise.  Unfortunately at an early age I was hooked on this performance drug.  So I ‘get it’ when the A students self-righteously protest the professor’s generosity at awarding the slackers the same A that THEY earned. Like the boss in Jesus’ parable, doesn’t the professor have the right to be generous?

Thankfully, I’m beginning to glimpse a different way to think about this.  My son Graham talks about ‘God- Math’.  That is now shorthand for me, reminding me how differently God thinks about things (Duh!!!  He even tells us that His ways are not our ways – Is 55:8).

Paraphrasing Jerry Bridges, he explains that the sins of the elect, those for whom Jesus died, required nothing short of ETERNAL DEATH as a penalty.  And Jesus’ work during those 3 hours on the cross, actually accomplished that.  Now contrast what I think I, Maria, might do in a lifetime to ‘earn’ God’s favor with those 3 hours of Jesus.  The notion not only staggers and sobers me, it is actually ridiculous.  Thankfully!

I don’t want to try to earn anything more. God’s ocean of grace is mine already since I am in Christ.  And I have access to that Grace right now, not just later in Heaven.  And the most that I will use on a daily basis is equivalent to what a small bird might drink in through her beak as she nears the mighty Columbia River.  This river discharges water at the rate of 265,000 cubic feet per second.  I’m not a math person, but that sounds like a lot. I asked Mike how to think through this number.  He walked me through the computation.  The flow of water when it empties into the Pacific Ocean is the equivalent of almost 2 million gallons per second.

Do you think that you or I could ever use up this grace? Could we out-ask what is available as beloved children of our Father?  Could all the birds in the world dry up the mighty Columbia River?  Not even imaginable.

So rest, cease striving and drink deeply and pray that God give us a grateful heart.  The aroma of entitlement not only stinks, but will always leave us dissatisfied.