Three years ago, after living in the parsonage for fifteen years, Sarah and I bought our first house. At the time it was a nerve wracking experience for me as I’d never bought anything so big or been in debt. I had trouble really trusting God during the process, stressing out repeatedly as we navigated the steps you take in buying a house. In the end, things went amazingly smoothly and we even closed two weeks ahead of our original closing date! Its a nice spot, the perfect house for us, and has many extras that have blessed us.
People have been happy for us, and one comment has come again and again: “You deserve this.” Now I appreciate the well-meaning sentiment of that statement. People know that we have dedicated our lives to serving the Lord, and they are happy to see us end up with something nice.
As Christians, we can easily slide into this thinking, that as we are good and faithful, that God is going to reward us, or that we are racking up points like a rewards card from the store. You’ve been a loyal God customer and your reward is coming.
This is normal, but also very unBiblical and dangerous. When we think that our relationship with God is merit based, we have moved away from an understanding of and appreciation for the amazing Grace of Jesus. Grace of course is undeserved merit. If you earned it, it wasn’t grace.
God didn’t owe me a house. Not a nice one or a small one or a big one or anything. The fact that He provided one for me is purely and completely an example of His Grace. Years of faithful service are not given for the purpose of earning points, but rather in response to the One who gave up Himself for me.
“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'”
The danger is that we start feeling like God owes us one. When I look at my kids, my house, or anything in my life with a feeling that I’m entitled to it, I forget my hopeless state outside of God’s grace. Then if I lose anything, experiencing a loss of some kind, I can think that God has cheated me. I am no longer living in grace. I also forget that while I will be rewarded, the reward that I will get is not coming in this world. The reward is in the future, and that too will be given because of God’s grace. Without His work, I could never have anything.
in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:8)
I’m very thankful for all that God has provided my family. We are very blessed. Knowing that we don’t deserve it has made my appreciation of God’s lovingkindness, His grace & mercy all the sweeter. Much better than if I’d earned it. Thank you Lord!