The idea that you should get what you deserve is pretty popular—probably because it makes a lot of sense. It seems fair. It seems normal. Think about it. Life is full of transactions. We go to work and get paid. We hand over some of that pay to get our favorite coffee, lunch, or a ride to work. A farmer plants and gets a harvest. A child disobeys and gets a time out. A student works hard (or doesn’t) and gets a fair grade. It’s no wonder we easily come to believe that we all get what we deserve.
But there are just too many holes in this thinking. You’ve probably already wondered yourself, Did a hungry infant deserve to be born into a food-insecure region of the world? No, they didn’t earn that.
Does anyone deserve Jesus?
We might say an “amen” when we read a quote like, “Salvation is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” But do our stress levels, maximizing self-talks, and our latest attempts at spiritual improvement believe it? Of all the good in your life, is any of it worthy of a blameless, perfect human (let alone Son of God) dying a painful death? On the other hand, if you produced perfect behavior, incredible generosity, and incessant kindness starting today—for the rest of your life—would you have earned what Jesus did for you?
You can breathe a sigh of relief because Jesus never said, “You get what you deserve.”
Jesus said things like “Your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:1-8), “Go and leave your life of sin” (John 8:1-11), and “Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). And as He hung on the cross, He told a remorseful criminal, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:40-43). The criminal realized who Jesus was and what Jesus was doing for him as they were both dying, nailed to a cross. The criminal had no chance to climb down and start reading his Bible every day, get involved in a church, and serve his community. Nope, he had no opportunity to earn what he was asking Jesus for—what Jesus freely gave him.
Like the criminal, we have no chance to earn grace or acceptance from God, but we have every chance to show Him our love, generosity, and obedience. Not as payment, but as worship. And doesn’t following Jesus as worship make so much more sense than adding it in as one more transaction in our day? So thankfully, we don’t get what we deserve. We get undeserved grace, instead.