Letting Go of Grace

April 15, 2013

homeless_man_on_streetLet’s imagine that you give me a hundred dollars…

…not that I’m asking for a hundred dollars.

You just approach me on the street at random and plunk a hundred bucks in my hand.

“You see that guy over there?” you ask me.  You point to grimy, tattered looking homeless man slouched over on the sidewalk.

“I want you to give this hundred dollars to that guy,” you tell me.

“Whatever. It’s your money,” I say.  I walk over and toss the money at the bum, careful not to get too close.  It feels like a waste.  I know what the homeless guy is going to do with the money.

I’ve been realizing something lately.  That grace is a lot like that wasted hundred dollars.  Here’s why…

Not My Money

In the scenario I just gave, if a stranger came up to me, gave me some money, and then asked me to give it to a bum, I’d have no problem doing as I was asked.  Why?  Because I didn’t actually earn the money.  It was just handed to me through no merit of my own.  The stranger picked me at random.  The money still belongs to the stranger.

But I can tell you from real life that I have a much harder time handing over my own money.  I used to live in a part of town where lots of people asked strangers for money.  Sometimes, I’d help out.  Sometimes, I’d come up with some excuse in my head…

This guy’s a liar.

I know she just wants to get drunk.

I saw this guy panhandling yesterday.

He doesn’t deserve my help.

Undeserving

But mostly, I resist opening up my wallet because the money inside was not handed to me by a stranger…

earned it.  I worked for it.

It’s my money.

And that dirty, stinking, lazy, no good bum didn’t earn it.  He didn’t work for it and he doesn’t deserve it.  He’s just trying to steal what’s mine by manipulating me.

In fact, my money would be wasted on this guy.

The Real Reason

I’ve realized how often I treat grace like crumpled dollar bills.  Someone comes along who needs grace, and I treat grace like it’s a crumpled dollar bill.  I hold it tight in my fist, reluctant to unclench my fingers.

That guy doesn’t deserve my grace.

I’ll give her grace when she admits she’s wrong and I’m right.

Grace is wasted on that jerk.

But mostly, when I withhold grace from my brother or sister, no matter how wrong they are, no matter how little they deserve it, no matter how wasted grace might be on them, there is really only one excuse that is secretly hiding in the back of my mind that keeps my fingers clenched, unwilling to let go of a little grace…

The belief, the lie, that I earned it.  It’s mine.  worked for it.  It’s owed to me.

But grace isn’t owed to us and we never worked for it or earned it.  And it’s only when we let go of that belief that we are free to let go of a little bit of undeserved grace.

14 responses to Letting Go of Grace

  1. Maybe I’m a bit confused by your analogy, but if grace is already given to everyone, why do we have to give it away?

    To go back to your example–didn’t our hypothetical rich guy already give the homeless guy money while he was giving me money? Why is whether or not the hypothetical homeless guy receives money/grace totally dependent upon whether or not *I* give it to him?

  2. Wow. Powerful.

    This may be the best illustration our tendency to hoard grace (& blessings) for ourselves.

  3. It’s so easy to forget that it’s not ours to begin with: “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” (Haggai 2:8) We think we earned our money, and we think we earned our grace. We forget that it’s a gift, and we’re commanded to share it.

  4. I really appreciate and agree with your sentiment but have a hard time with the analogy. My husband and I just had this convo two days ago when a sketchy looking 30 something guy in the grocery store parking lot asked for “2 dollars for food”.

    Equating grace with money misses the mark a little bit, I think. When helping hurts, and all that.

    We should definitely give grace and withhold judgement but beyond that I don’t have perfect answers. It’s a short-term situation that that needs a long-term answer. And that’s a lot messier than just 2 dollars. Frankly, I don’t know what Jesus would’ve done in that moment. Actually, I do – he probably would have healed him based on his faith. Which, for whatever reason, isn’t a trick I have in my back pocket.

  5. I just completed Dave Ramsey’s FPU and in it he points out that when we hold our money with a clinched fist not much of it gets out but no more can get in either.

    I think our hearts work the same way both with grace and forgiveness – I don’t find the two are exclusive. If we’re willing to give away grace and forgive – which, honestly, is for our benefit not the other person anyway – we’re far more open to receiving.

    • Ohh, that’s powerful! Wretched beggar that I am, I need all the grace I can get. Better be willing to give it then!

  6. We all have a lack of trust in the Lord.

    That’s why we so often desire to hold onto (tightly). We want security, for ourselves.

    In Christ, we have security, and all that is needful.

    But…we are REAL sinners and continue in our untrusting ways.

    I guess we could really use a Savior, even though there’s not a one of us who deserves one.

  7. I never thought of grace as crumpled up dollar bills before, but you make an exceptional argument. Now that I think of it, I can be a bit “stingy” with my grace as well. Perhaps it’s also a fear of someone else getting the better of me that really causes me to withhold. It’s good to be conscious of this, though, because that’s the first step in shaking things up for the better!

  8. Jesus shows me grace without asking any questions. If we are called to be a blessing (I believe we are) then we should bless, no questions asked.

  9. Great discussion. I have a lot to think about this morning.
    With regard to grace and forgiveness “with the measure you use
    It will be used on you” (Jesus)

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