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