It is only human nature to expect credit for one’s own hard work. In fact, it is a basic tenet of American life. We praise the fellow who pulled himself out of poverty “lifted by his own bootstraps”. Meaning he depended only upon himself and his own industriousness, shirking all means of assistance from the public coffers. There was a time in America’s history when our culture actually frowned upon the idea of one being “on the public dole”, as if there were shame in asking for and receiving assistance.
Horatio Alger, Jr. wrote many novels and short stories from which the American ethos has drawn the Horatio Alger myth that if we only try hard enough, and are honest and true, we will ultimately succeed…that only in America is it possible to go from “rags to riches”, (even though not one character in the typical Horatio Alger story went from rags to riches; but rather went from rags to middle class stability and respectability).
What is the point I am trying to make? Americans have been sold on “the American dream”. We have been made to believe that “honesty is the best policy”. That “early to bed and early to rise will make one healthy wealthy and wise.” Notwithstanding Ben Franklin’s adept ability to turn a phrase, human nature tends to work against all the above, right?
Jeremiah 17:9-10 teaches us clearly about the deceitfulness of the human heart. Not only do we tend to be deceitful in our interactions with others, we even lie to ourselves and learn to believe our lies because they comfort us. But verse ten points out that God reads the heart of man clearly and gives to each of us the “fruits of our deeds”. He actually gives us credit for what we do. Only one problem. Verse nine. We are liars at heart, and the wages of sin is death.
“But Kent”, you might ask, “I try really hard to ‘do the right thing’. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
Well, let’s see what scripture tells us about our “good and righteous works”. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We can lie to others and even ourselves about how our good deeds dress us in clothes of brilliant white. But like a “well filled” pair of Pampers, that may look good on the outside, the smell is giving away the lie. We can trade them in for “Pull-ups” and declare to the world that “I’m a big kid now!” But we will fill that diaper just like the last one. Because our heart is deceitful at the core. We are unable to do good in the eyes of God. We cannot be “good enough” to earn a ticket to heaven, because our heart is deceitful. We will always and inevitably fail.
“Is there no hope?” you might ask? Yes. There is.
Romans 4:7-8 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Only one person ever lived on this planet who was able to live a sinless life. He was fully human and also fully God. The man Jesus Christ. He came here and lived the sinless life we could never hope to live in order to justify to His HOLY and Righteous Father our entry into heaven. His life of personal sacrifice is a free gift to those who are being saved.
John 3:16 teaches us that believing in Jesus will give us entrance to eternal life. This is also called “The Great Exchange” whereby we may exchange our sins for the pure, righteous, unadulterated character of Christ. Not through anything we did, because we don’t deserve the mercy being given to us. It is “by faith” in Christ “through Grace” provided by God. Even our faith is a gift of God. Eph 2:8-9
So, my friend, don’t ask for justice. Don’t ask for credit for your so-called good deeds. Ask God to open your eyes to your true standing before a HOLY and righteous Judge. No. Don’t ask for justice. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for the gift of faith. Faith enough to believe in the finished work of Christ to deliver you from the jaws of Hell. We all deserve to fall into the lake of fire. But, Praise God! He has provided a way of escape and it has NOTHING to do with any effort on our part. It is a free gift of His mercy. Don’t spurn it. Embrace it, and thank Him every day for the rest of our life!