Tuesday, June 5, 2007

When Do I Get A Break?

In 1971, McDonalds commercials sang, "You deserve a break today. So get out and get away, to McDonalds!" I remember coming in from the pool. Too young to get a job, summer vacation for me meant swimming and playing with friends, watching TV, and reading one Hardy Boys mystery after another. The lawn mowing and the hedge trimming could wait. This day, as the McDonalds commercial played, I looked up at my mother, who was busy vacuuming around me, and asked, "Hey mom, can we go to McDonald's tonight?" (I'd seen the casserole that she had prepared, waiting to go into the oven.) She looked at me, lounging still in my swim trunks, and then she looked over at the TV, just as they sang, "you deserve a break today." Mom told me to lift my feet, and said that we could go just as soon as I deserved a break. As I recall, the casserole was creamed tuna, noodle and peas.

Later, when I came to know Jesus. One thing that struck me, was that in Christ:

1. We do not get what we deserve.
2. We get what we do not deserve.

How much one loves reading the Bible depends upon what they perceive that they deserve. "T'was grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." When I remember what I deserved: death and hell; and when I remember what I don't deserve, and yet have received: eternal life, forgiveness of sins, adoption into God's family, His power flowing through us, purpose, and hope; I have joy. I have so much that I don't deserve, while the deserts of the sinner that I was, I am not going to receive after all. All this because Jesus took my place on that cross! God is awesome! Who really needs "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun?" (Gag! I'm like, so brainwashed!!! )

Years ago, people corrected each other’s English. I wish we still did that. We'd be so much happier people! I remember rolling my eyes as I was told to ask "May I...?" instead of "Can I...?" I just wanted answers to my questions, while my elders droned on about the difference between being capable and being permitted. But now I find, as I get older, that I really do want for people to say what they mean. They’d have more joy if they did.

Take this word, "deserve" for instance. When people say "I deserve," they usually mean, "I really want …." It is not simply bad English. It also breeds discontentment. If I don’t get what I “really want,” then that is life. I deal with it and grow. If I don’t get what I deserve, then there is an injustice being done. Frustration!

I'm usually hardest on Christians, when I hear someone say, "I deserve..." My friends know that as soon as it is said around me, the hand will go up, and I'll say matter-of-factly, "Actually, you deserve Hell." Sounds like I'm tons of fun to be around, I know. And yes, "I do parties."

But I don't say this to be a downer. I say, "You deserve Hell," to put things into proper perspective, so we can then talk sanely. The person who says "I deserve" followed by something nice has already crossed the line into deception. As Christians, our joy is going to be robbed if we tell ourselves such lies.

To "deserve" something, one has to do something that specifically merits them to receive what was promised or agreed upon. For instance, if I have signed a contract for work, and I did my job and then I got paid the agreed amount; I deserved that paycheck. But if I got paid more, or less even, then I did not receive what I deserved.

Adam and Eve plunged mankind into sin state, when they did precisely what God told them not to do. He told them that they would die if they ate that particular fruit, and in every way, mankind got the death sentence that day. They got what they deserved.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus."

Romans 6:23

I’ve sinned and so deserved death too. But I didn't get what I deserved. Thanks to Jesus, I have gotten instead, eternal life. Heaven is not something people deserve, just for existing. It is a gift from God, to be either received or not.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
Ephesians 2:8,9

Salvation could only come to us in gift form. All are in need because,

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Romans 3:23

We can only be given salvation by God's wanting us to have it, and by our willingness to receive it.

One of my English students was reading an article from The Times, about “America’s Poor.” The pictures showed a well-fed woman, with three children, in an apartment that had a TV, huge American refrigerator, doors that obviously led to more than one room, and I think there was even a computer there. Nothing that let my student think they were poor, except the sad look on the mother’s face. She asked, “Why is she saying that she “deserves” a better place to live? What did she do, that she deserves better?” The article doesn’t say. She knew what “to deserve” means. And the woman in the article did not.

Now, I'm not advocating that we all get poor so that we appreciate what we have, but I am saying that as native English speakers we have got to stop putting on sad faces and telling ourselves that we "deserve" better. If we want more for ourselves and for our families, we need to just be honest, and say so.

If I say I want a new car, that is different psychologically, than if I say, “I deserve a new car.” While advertisers may try and butter me up to buy their car, I mustn’t deceive myself. Because if I then don’t get that new car, I’m going to either be frustrated, or feel something unjust has gone on. If I just want the car and don’t get one, then I simply have to keep driving my Gremlin. See? No frustration.

Some athletes may say, “We deserved to win the game.” But there are no guarantees in fair sports. Had they lost, would some injustice have been done? They are misusing the word again. It is bad English. They deserve Hell.

I’m ranting, I know. But it is important to be truthful. Jesus had this to say about what our attitudes should be, with regard to Christian service:

“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
Luke 17:7-10

We are worth a great deal to God. We apparently are worth dying for. (See Jesus) That doesn’t make us “worthy.” Note too, that the servant mentioned, does have time for food and a break. But it’s the Master who decides when that will be, and what it will involve. God will give us what we need.

When I was 16 years old, I worked at a McDonalds. I was told by the swing manager, when I could take a break, and for how long. I was even told what size drink, sandwich and “crispy golden brown French fries” (Gag, I did it again!) that I was allowed, depending upon my shift’s length. I didn’t just take a break whenever.

McDonald’s says we deserve a break, but scripture says we were created for good works, and that the servant is truly happiest when he is serving in the way he was created. If you are tired, it may be that you are not using your spiritual gifts. You may be muscling it out, serving in ways that do not motivate you. I recommend going to Romans 12, verses 3- 8, and ask the Lord what motivates you. You may be surprised. The world sees our talents, but God knows what makes us tick. They aren’t always the same thing.

In our Bible Concordance, the word, "deserve" has many references. There isn't one nice thing that is mentioned, that mankind deserves. In fact, this word is overwhelmingly most used in the negative. If you want to find out your worth, don't look up “deserved;” try "Love." Because you were loved and valued so much by God, He has not given you what you deserved. Instead, if you are in Christ, He has given you what you do not deserve.

"He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103:10-13

Thank you, Jesus!

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