For years now, whenever I hear the word “deserve” whether used in a “positive” sense like “Forget a birth day, you deserve a birth month!” “I deserve to be treated like the queen I am.” or a more negative one like “that creeper deserves a death sentence!” “I deserve to be punished for what I just thought.”, my spirit cringes. I ask myself, Who is to say who deserves what? Certainly not us. And, do any of us really deserve anything, whether good or bad? Who judges that? If camped too firmly on the positive, it can lead to self-entitlement and self-absorption. If camped to firmly on the negative, a spirit of shame and condemnation.
Since the line is so easily blurred (or stepped over) I just stopped using the word deserve, altogether. Instead, I try to think of the good things as ways to be healthy, balanced or right again. And the bad? I ask God to give me his heart on the subject and respond how he would. I think of Jesus – Is it just me, or does sin seem to make him more…sad than anything? Can you picture his face when he looked at the crowd of men with stone-filled fists ready to unleash at the woman caught in adultery? The whole situation must have torn his heart. But mercy triumphed, as it did wherever he stepped foot. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jn 8:11. 1. I don’t condemn 2.Go on – move on. 3. leave that life of sin – stop doing it. You can. ~ There was never a mention of what she deserved. Only acceptance, empowerment and a command.
It seems like the blood that Jesus Christ willingly shed proves he deems us worthy of every one of its benefits. Worthy of Kingdom living. Freedom. Abundance. For us to admit this seems like arrogant heresy – “Look at me! I’m worthy of receiving all he’s offered!” Ha! – Sounds so foreign to even type that, as I’m used to singing to my King, “YOU are worthy!” not “I am worthy!” But if God didn’t love us so much and deem us worthy of being adopted into his royal family – if He didn’t deem us worthy of offering us salvation in every way, he wouldn’t have come at all. He does what he pleases. So to Him, we must be worthy of his love and salvation. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that we would be saved.
This worthiness though – it differs from the idea of “deserving”. As closely-related as they seem, they’re different. Deserve derives from an Old French word, “deservir”, which is originally from Latin, and means to serve zealously or to merit. No one deserves God’s favor, gifts, blessings. It’s only by the gift of grace, received through faith that we’re saved or given anything of God. Deserving, I believe, always implies there was a working for or toward an end. A doing of something enough to cause a particular outcome. A performing. “She did this, so she deserves…” (I shudder even typing it). And when it comes to salvation, that sounds like the polar opposite of what we have in Christ. That sounds like a spirit of religion – a doing in order to receive or be received. Not a simply being. Simply believing. Simply receiving a gift. So after all my thinking so far, that my conclusion – so far. To be worthy, at least in the faith, is not the same as deserving.
And I still don’t like the word deserve.
I wonder if anyone else doesn’t like it either?