There is a kind of person who hates grace. It’s not hard to imagine why.
Imagine you graduated from college with a mountain of debt (this won’t be hard for many of us). You work for 10 years to get it all paid off, and the day after you send in the last check, some trillionaire makes an announcement that he wants to pay off all student loans in the U.S. How do you think you would feel?
I like to think I would be thankful for those who would have their loans written off, but it’s hard to know for sure. The reason we might feel miffed is easy: we worked hard to pay off our loans; someone else got it for free. And in the words of any third grader across the country: “That’s not fair!”
Luke 15 starts with Jesus showing grace to tax-collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees and scribes…grumbling. It was their general practice when they saw grace being exercised. They never liked it one bit. After all, they had worked hard for their standing with God, and if the love of God was simply going to be poured out freely on wicked people, maybe all their lawful labor had been for nothing.
The elder brother could relate. He too had worked hard for the Father’s affection, and suddenly his ne’er-do-well prodigal brother was having love lavished on him at no-charge.
One Heart or Another?
In every situation in life, we show ourselves to have one of two kinds of hearts: We can have the heart of the elder brother, or we can have the heart of the Father. The elder brother grumbles demanding retribution and payback, but the heart of the Father grants grace and celebrates sinners who return to Him.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him….And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20 – 24 (ESV)
We look at this situation quite convinced that we would have done better than the elder brother, and maybe so. But the question about what kind of heart we have can never be settled thinking about some amorphous sinner out there that we don’t know, or a collection of former college students who have had their debts paid off by an extremely generous benefactor.
The Final Test
The question about what kind of heart we have must finally be settled by considering how we will relate to someone…who owes us. After all, our Heavenly Father calls us to forgive…as we have been forgiven.
Here is where our hearts will be revealed. Will we be the elder brother demanding payment be made, or will we be the Father who runs with arms outstretched.
Will we grumble…or will we grant grace?
For Wednesday, July 22nd: Luke 16