In 1971, McDonald’s came out with one of the most successful advertising jingles in commercial history. If you’re from my generation (Gen X or earlier), you’ll remember it: “You deserve a break today, so get out and get away to McDonald’s…” The concept of “deserving a break” at Micky D’s continued throughout the 70’s and most of the 80’s. McDonald’s wasn’t the only company to get consumers to feel they were deserving of some better product or idea. From diet fads claiming to give you the “body you deserve” to self-help books promising to give you the wealthy, happy future you deserve, we consumers started to believe that we were actually entitled to these things. Even President Obama in his final State of the Union address declared that “We deserve good things from Washington.”
Not only does the outside world feed us the belief we are somehow more deserving of greatness, but we do the same thing in our own minds, don’t we? Maybe we’ve had a rough day at work and we feel we deserve that glass of wine. Or we’ve completed a hard workout and we tell ourselves we deserve that In-N-Out burger and fries. (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience here.) Maybe our kids are driving us nuts and we deserve a night out or that weekend getaway. And slowly, we begin to think – or rather even believe – that enduring tough circumstances in life, whether great or small, earns us something better, something we believe we need.
Or maybe we think that doing something good means we deserve something good in return. We work hard at our job and we deserve that raise. We’ve lost a few pounds and deserve a new outfit. We’ve poured time and energy into a relationship and we deserve the same in return. We’ve done our best to raise healthy, happy children and we deserve their love, respect, and obedience. Right?
I’m not sure why the concept of “deservedness” has been bothering me lately. Perhaps because I’ve recently been the recipient of comments about something incredibly positive in my life such as, “I’m so happy for you! You deserve it!” or “If there’s anyone who deserves this, it’s you!” While a small part of me is tempted to respond with, “I know, right?”, the majority of me is wondering why I would be considered deserving of such happiness in someone else’s eyes. Did walking through brutally difficult circumstances in life earn me this happiness?
Let me say this with 100% assurance: Not. One. Bit.
You see, I’ve concluded that there are two veins of thought to be had on this topic of “deservedness”. And it all comes down to whether you believe you are in control of your life or if you believe God is in control of your life.
When you believe you are in control of things, your thinking may be something like this: “I did this good thing; therefore, I deserve something good in return.” or “I don’t deserve this bad thing because of the good I’ve done.” Either way, both avenues of thought breed a sense of entitlement. And friends, I have been there too many times. Shouting at God that I did not deserve what had happened to me. And I’m sure you have, too. It’s the age-old question we are constantly trying to answer of “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Let me break it down for you: there is no “good” person on this planet (which completely invalidates the above statement, but I digress). Not me, not you, not Mother Teresa, the Pope, or anyone else who has ever walked this earth or who ever will. We are all sinners. And we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is nothing “deserving” about us. We have earned NO GOOD THING in this life.
“He repays everyone for what they have done; He brings on them what their conduct DESERVES.” ~ Job 34:11
You and I deserve nothing. Well….almost nothing. Because we all sin and fall short, we do deserve something: eternal death and separation from God. But here’s the crazy part. Psalm 103:10 says,
“He does not treat us as our sins DESERVE or repay us according to our iniquities.”
I don’t know about you, but is that verse not the best news EVER??? That’s a game changer for our lives! What’s even CRAZIER is that the only person who didn’t deserve death is the sinless One who died for us. Even Pilate said during Jesus’ trial, “He has done nothing to deserve death.” (Luke 23:15) The criminal who hung on the cross with Jesus also recognized this. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” (v. 41) But perhaps Timothy puts it best:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that DESERVES full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:15-16
When you begin to understand that God is ultimately the one in control, and has been since the beginning of time, you realize that the word “deserving” has no part in what has happened in your life, good OR bad. The “bad things” are a result of living in a sinful world. And the “good things” are a simply a result of having a loving, merciful God. You start to realize that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever – independent of our positive and negative circumstances. He already gave us what we didn’t deserve – eternal life – because of who He IS. Not because of who we are or what we’ve done. But because of what His son did for US.
As I stood at my 14-year-old son’s grave yesterday, those little twinges of “I don’t deserve to be standing here” came creeping up again, ready to give way to a full-blown pity party. But as I read Joe’s favorite verse engraved on his marker, as I have done so many times, my eyes were opened to an amazing undeservedness of God’s love.
How great is the (undeserved) love the Father has lavished on us, that we should (undeservedly) be called children of God. And that (even though we didn’t deserve it) is what we are! ~ 1 John 3:1
Ok, so maybe I added a few extra words that weren’t there….but it turned my near pity party into feelings of incredible gratitude for what Christ did for me. For my son. And for each one of us who believes in the underserved love of God.