Fairness, Entitlements, or Grace ?
Life is not fair...and that's a good thing.

I deserve this.

                     I earned it.

                                            It’s my right.

A sense of entitlement. We see it in political debates about whether certain government benefits are a “gift” or have been earned.

It shows up in marriages and other relationships as individual people focus more on their rights than on the relationship.

We see it in our culture as people promote their own “right to privacy” over the sacredness of someone else’s life.

We even see it in our relationship with God, although we don’t always admit it.

But a sense of entitlement isn’t a new wrinkle in human development. Way back when the ancient Israelites left Egypt, their sense of entitlement was as strong as ours today. First they complained about a lack of food. Well, okay, I can understand a desire for daily sustenance in the middle of the desert. But after a year of God miraculously providing daily food in the form of manna, they complained about a lack of variety!

That account started me thinking. How often do I carry a sense of entitlement into my relationship with God? Of course, I don’t call it that. Instead, I say things such as:

It’s not fair!

                  Why did this have to happen to me?

                                          When is this suffering going to end?

Fair? Where did we get the idea that our Creator and Redeemer is fair? Think about it. Innocent animals died to cover Adam and Eve’s sin, pointing to the time when the perfect, sinless Son of God would die in our place for our sin. If a relationship with God were based on fairness, we would not have a relationship with Him at all. Instead, our future would hold nothing but judgment.

Fair is not the same as good. God is good. He is perfect. And He is sovereign.

One of the names of our great God is Adonai, the sovereign Lord. It means He is in control. Because I’m a Christian, He is not only the sovereign Lord, He is my sovereign Lord.

Each time I complain about my circumstances, in effect I’m saying I know better than He does about what is best. That’s a bit arrogant on my part, isn’t it? My finite assessment versus the viewpoint of the infinite, sovereign Creator of the universe.

I may claim to trust God’s leading and provision, but I’m ashamed to say, too often I allow my situation to distract me from remembering His faithfulness. Like the ancient Israelites, I grumble and complain, not because I don’t believe He is Lord, but because I don’t like the circumstances my Lord has engineered for me.

The sense of entitlement I criticize in others is just as ugly in me.

The demand for my rights to be honored is just as conceited in me.

Worst of all, every time I complain about what the Lord has allowed in my life, I become arrogance personified.

But demanding what I deserve is not really what I want. Because if God were to give me what I deserve, it would mean living without the assurance of His salvation through Jesus Christ. The result would be spiritual death and eternal separation from Him. It would mean living without His indwelling Holy Spirit, His love, and His guidance, and everything else He provides to His children.

I may be foolish at times, but I’m not stupid. I don’t want what’s fair. And I don’t want what I deserve. Thankfully, in God’s mercy and grace, He doesn’t give me what I deserve. And that’s just fine with me.


The Plague of Perfectionism

A few years ago, a popular television program called Monk featured a lead character consumed with perfectionism. He couldn’t prevent the murder of his wife, so he spent the rest of his life trying to control everything else.

For a while, my nickname became “Mrs. Monk.” I admit it: I like control. I’m happiest when things are done my way, on my time-table, and to my standards. (Cue lots of sympathy for my long-suffering husband!)

Thankfully, the older I get, the more I’m learning to relax. I’m finally getting over my perfectionism, both physically and spiritually. This is a good thing, since on the spiritual front, perfectionism can lead to performance-based Christianity.

That was the Pharisees’ problem in Jesus’ day. They were consumed with doing everything perfectly right. To ensure their absolute compliance with the Law, they created even more laws. But they focused on externals. Their spiritual life was all about impressing people with their performance. Problem is, they also thought they were impressing God.

I can be like that, focused on playing the role of the perfect Christian. I forget that God is more concerned with the state of my heart than He is with the stage of my life. As He told the prophet Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). I may be able to fool people, but I will never be able to fool God.

Our relationship with God is based on His grace, not our performance. Our salvation is not payment for good behavior, it’s a gift given to us because of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. The good that we do is not to earn God’s favor, it’s to thank Him for what He has already done for us.

And that beats a performance-based life every time.