Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Wickedness of Ungraciousness

The last two days I have been working on personal devotions for a high school week of church camp. To help me write these I have turned to Stand Against the Wind by Erwin McManus. One of the thoughts that have struck me today is this: “To receive the grace of God and yet treat others ungraciously is an act of wickedness” (p. 41). Do we believe that?

I know that I don’t consider it wickedness when I ignore a request or when I treat another person with contempt. We are constantly acting ungraciously to other people, and we don’t even consider how graciously God has acted to us. When we lack the gratitude to appreciate what God has done for us we will, in turn, be ungracious to other people.

Seems to me that Jesus told a parable about this.
23 “That is why the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he had begun to settle the accounts, a person who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Because he couldn't pay, his master ordered him, his wife, his children, and all that he had to be sold so that payment could be made. 26 Then the servant fell down and bowed low before him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything!’ 27 The master of that servant had compassion and released him, canceling his debt. 28 “But when that servant went away, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him, seized him by the throat, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’ 29 Then his fellow servant fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me and I will repay you!’ 30 But he refused and went and had him thrown into prison until he could repay the debt. 31 “When his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were very disturbed and went and reported to their master all that had occurred. 32 Then his master sent for him and said to him, ‘You evil servant! I canceled that entire debt for you because you begged me. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he could repay the entire debt. 35 This is how my heavenly Father will treat each one of you unless you forgive your brother from your hearts.” (Matthew 18:23-35; ISV)

While the subject matter of the parable is forgiveness the principle can be applied to any of God’s gifts. If God has been gracious to us, and we are not gracious to other people we are living evil lives. I know that sounds harsh (in the preaching class I took in seminary I was told I shouldn’t use the word evil to describe such actions), but that is what God tells us.

When we are generous with God’s blessings, when we pass on His forgiveness and love, that is when we are reflecting His image. We need to remind ourselves that the blessings God has given us are not the things that we deserve, but are gifts given out of love. When we think God owes us we will not be grateful for what He has done and we will not be gracious to those around us. When we remember that God doesn’t give us what we deserve, but He blesses us out of His love for us, then we will seek to honor those gifts by becoming a blessing to those around us.

How we treat others and how we use the blessing of God is determined by our perspective. Are the blessings what are owed or are they gifts from God? Let us allows remember that God’s grace means we are not given what we deserve, but we are given the gifts of God’s love. May we share these gifts with those around us.

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