Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stuff We Didn't Earn

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

We have a hard time with grace. We want to believe that we have earned our place with God. In Paul’s language, we want to boast.

Over the weekend, commentator Glenn Beck told the National Rifle Association what is wrong with America. You can guess he didn’t tell them that we have too many guns or too much gun violence. One of the problems is that we expect to get things without earning them. “The next time one of your kids gets a trophy for participating in softball, give it back! Tell them, ‘Our family doesn’t accept stuff we didn’t earn! This is a loser trophy.’”

Ironically, he said that not long after accepting an honorary doctorate from Liberty University.

Glenn Beck said what probably most people believe, that we shouldn’t take stuff that we haven’t earned. This does not trouble us as much as one might expect, because we have an almost unlimited capacity to believe that we have earned what we have. If we get something, then we must have earned it. The problem is that other people, lots of other people, get things they have not earned.

Grace is hard for us, not because we don’t like to accept things we have not earned, but because we find it hard (impossible) to give up our boasting. And we cannot keep ourselves from pointing out that other people have things that they have not earned.

Paul has a name for our problem. He calls it sin. On our own, we just can’t get out of it. Glenn Beck points at the softball team, and I point at Glenn Beck. And I tell myself that my pointing is not the same as Beck’s pointing because I am doing it to teach a lesson. And given half a chance, I will boast about my insight.

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