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“Or do you begrudge my generosity?” Matthew 20:15b


The notion of a God who is extravagantly generous in the dispensation of saving grace can be a difficult pill for many of us to swallow. In theory, a God who loves the entire world the same as God loves me is a great thing. But in practice, I admit to preferring a God who gives to me in proportion to my relative faithfulness.

I am better than others, right? I’m often in church three times each weekend. I commune at least once each Sunday. I give generously in support of the work of the church and the extension of God’s work in the world (I have the receipts to prove it). While I may have disagreements with members of my family, I’m better than many others who either never speak with their spouse (or ex) and barely have a relationship with their kids. I study the bible regularly. I pray before each of my meals … oh, except when I get something in the drive-thru (I mean, who prays before eating fast food while driving down the road?) I (mostly) go the speed limit and obey (most) of the traffic laws … not like the others who pass me rather aggressively.

Two Bible passages come to mind (among many others):

  • Philippians 3:4-8a: “If anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more. … I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  Paul also uses the word “rubbish,” the worthless stuff, to describe his righteousness.
  • Matthew 5:20: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Our point of comparison is most often God’s perfect righteousness, comparing even our best efforts to God’s expectations, recognizing that we always fall short of that expectation. In theological terms, it is called the 2nd use of the Law. That is, while the law is good (see Romans 7:7-12), it will always serve to condemn those who fall short of its expectations (namely, me). And while this comparison is appropriate and maybe even helpful, I think there is a better point of comparison.

THE BETTER COMPARISON

I would propose that the better point of comparison is God’s overwhelming and extravagant grace, since I, regardless of my relative righteousness (or unrighteousness depending on the day) stand in need of God’s grace. Consider the following:

  • A comparison to God’s expectations sends many folks running away from God. God’s grace, however, always welcomes, always encourages, always forgives.  At those times in my life when I am most aware of God’s love, I am also all the more aware of my need for that love.
  • A comparison to others will always focus on me … the good and the bad. A comparison to God’s grace always focuses my gaze on our loving and gracious God.
  • A comparison to my work with always pushing against the limits of what is possible given my own abilities, time, and willingness. A comparison to God’s love in Christ will reveal again and again God’s unlimited love.

BUT IT IS GOOD, RIGHT?

My life and yours? Sure! There are all sorts of benefits that can be derived from being in worship each week, receiving forgiveness at the Lord’s table, asking the Lord’s blessing for a meal, and all the rest. Yes, working on creating and sustaining a loving relationship with the family God has given me pays all sorts of dividends. I highly recommend a life of faithful discipleship and insist that it is WAY better than the alternative.  Why? We are called by God’s grace to seek God where God may be found, to live according to the desires of God’s heart, and to love God and neighbor.

Why live as God’s child?  Because doing so gives me even more opportunity to know firsthand the extravagantly generous love of God!

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