There’s a lot of “deserving” talk going around these days. Apparently many of us feel that we are owed something for all the troubles we’ve encountered over the past months. That past injustices make us primary candidates for recompense. Or perhaps we even think that our exemplary lives make us worthy for other rewards.
“Not so,” says Martin Luther. In his Small Catechism, he frames the meaning of three petitions in the Lord’s Prayer with the words, “Without our prayer.” The kingdom comes, God’s will is done, daily bread comes our way, and not one scintilla of deservedness makes any of that happen. So, if my prayers can’t goad God into showering me with blessings, I come to the inevitable conclusion that whatever I receive in life doesn’t occur because of my unique importance. That’s a hard pill to swallow when I think that I’m being ignored or not appreciated fully.
Sure, some people are worthy of acclaim, help or special consideration. Some folks actually rate more than average attention. They’ve been oppressed—and therefore deserve justice. They’ve contributed enormously to the greater good—and so deserve gratitude. Throughout their lives, they’ve loved others beyond description—and deserve special care in their older years.
But self-described deservedness is a trap constructed by self-idolatry. Falsely claiming my special worth doesn’t motivate others to grant me special favors, privilege or rewards. And when too many of us gather together to voice our particular reasons for deservedness, the sound of those conflicting claims becomes noise—attention-worthy for possible attention-givers, but for the wrong reasons.
I prefer to think that all the blessings that come my way are a sign of God’s grace, and so doubly deserving of my gratitude. That equation works as a mantra, too: God deserves, not me!
A prayer, actually….
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