There’s no such thing as deserved grace.

Genesis 31:42

God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands.

Luke 1:46–48

Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”

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When it comes to the manner in which God doles out his grace and favor, I’m not always happy. I suspect that you are not either. When it is a young virgin told by an angel that she will bear the Son of God, the Savior of the world, that’s one thing. We delight that God “looked with favor on the lowliness” of Mary. She is the poster child of the pure at heart, the godly woman who says, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

But I’m not so sure about Jacob. Remember how he was born: grasping the heel of his twin brother? Recall how he cheated and connived his way through life in an effort to get what he wanted? True: in the context of his comments recorded above, he had been taken advantage of. He had wanted to marry Rachael, the more beautiful of Laban’s two daughters. He had been tricked into marrying Leah, and had worked for his father-in-law for 20 years to gain both daughters and some flocks. But that was his life. Whether it was cheating his brother out of his birthright, or fooling his father with fake hairy arms and wild game stew, Jacob knew how to play the game. He was no innocent fool.

How do you feel when the scoundrel gets federal witness protection care? How about the guy who manages to take advantage of every shady deal, dodges his taxes, and gets away with his miscreant behavior because he was used in a sting operation to get a higher-ranking mob boss?

Grace is usually welcomed by those who receive it, but not so easily appreciated when seen in the life of someone we deem unworthy of it. That’s why it’s good that we are not God. We would give grace only to the deserving. But in the end grace is not about justice. Grace is not grace if it is deserved. While both Mary and Jacob could claim a place of neediness, their expression is not a justification of God’s grace, but an acknowledgement of God’s favor to them.

Grace is about God’s character, goodness, love, and kindness. Grace works its way through the saga of human history to accomplish God’s purposes. Grace sent Jesus to us to redeem and save us who have no claim on God’s justice, but deeply needed his mercy. I may think that certain people are undeserving of God’s grace. But neither am I. God gives grace even to me who would sit in judgment of others or try to determine how worthy they are for his love. For that we can all magnify the Lord (make him larger in our lives) and rejoice in God our Savior!

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