Part of our impoverished view of God is that we worry why he doesn't do more about those people who abuse the gift of goodness. We know this theologically and recite Paul's words -- "by grace we have been saved" -- with the arrogance of a know-it-all seminarian. If we really understand God's plenty of grace, why are we so stingy about giving it?
We're triggered when people abuse grace. We're disturbed by the person who cheats on his taxes and gets away with it. We're miffed by the person who gets to say whatever she wishes publicly and be forgiven with no problem. We're even bothered by the possibility of grace abuse: we cringe at the homeless person on the street because we fear if we give, our money will be abused. We may know nothing about this person, but we assume they will waste our precious cash. We worry that people will abuse our philanthropy, so we feel reassured when our money goes toward "the most deserving." We praise self-sufficiency and deplore anything that smacks of negligence or laziness.
Avoiding scams at all costs is poetry for political campaigns, but poison for ministry. When you review Jesus' earthly ministry, it's clear that he identified the scam artist when he or she first drew breath. He knew the disposition of some people to follow him for the fish and bread while ignoring his message about God's salvation and eternal kingdom. He knew that people would love their money more than sacrificing for God, and his heart ached for the rich young ruler. Jesus operated from abundance. He understood that his resources of grace are constant and infinite. Jesus also operated from ultimate power. He did not fear being duped or abused because he knew who he was.
But if we rely on our own version of grace, sporting the same smugness of the religious classes who challenged Jesus, is it any surprise that we are exhausted? And disappointed?
Judy Howard Ellis