The expression “you deserve” has become ubiquitous in modern advertising. Mcdonald’s famous slogan, “You deserve a break today” is a classic example. I also just heard a mattress ad that ended, “Get the sleep you deserve!” From cruises to automobiles, marketing gurus intentionally groom our lust for more with the motivator, “You deserve it.”
This would have horrified our forefathers, and it should have the same effect on us today. Although many of our ancestors were not Christians, they grew up in a world that possessed a Christian worldview, and the Christian worldview has no place for the “you deserve it” language. This was the language of the entitled, the lazy, and the spoiled. When people feel they “deserve” good from God, the State, or other people, they become “grumblers and faultfinders” (Jude 16). They lack humility and the gratitude that is its fruit.
What We Deserve
One of the fundamental messages of the Bible is that we deserve nothing from God but judgment. We are sinners (Rom. 3:9ff). God is angry with us (Rom. 1:18ff). We don’t deserve good from his hand. We deserve damnation. I know this sounds harsh, but it is a cardinal assumption of the Christian worldview, and it leads to great happiness.
This assumption about human nature, and God’s response to it, equips us to understand God’s astounding grace and love. God loves his enemies, and that was each of us. Jesus went to the cross to absorb the wrath that we deserve. So great is God’s love that he took our place on the cross exhausting the righteous anger that we deserve.
This means that the humble look to the cross, not contemporary ads, to see what they “deserve.” The fruit is humility. I am not the great person I imagined. Therefore, any good that comes to me is never deserved. It is a gift of God’s amazing grace. But the bad, the uncomfortable, the painful I totally deserved
Sadly, those who feel that they “deserve a break today,” a new car, better sleep, or money from the government, will never be happy. They will spend their lives in misery, “grumbling and faultfinding.” Nothing will ever be enough. The spirit of entitlement is an obstacle to true and lasting happiness.
But the person who assumes with the Bible that we deserve nothing but God’s judgment, will find themselves “overflowing with gratitude” (Col. 2:7). The smallest blessings will be incomparably sweet—each becoming an occasion of great joy. I deserve poverty, but I have food. I deserve sickness and death, but I am healthy. I deserve alienation from others, but I have friends. Food, health, and relationships are never perfect in this fallen world, but I can rejoice because I know what I deserve, and I am not getting it. God so loved the world that he sent Jesus to take it in my place.
New Testament scholar, Peter O’Brien, notes that the apostle Paul references thanksgiving or gratitude more frequently than any other first-century writer. Why? Paul knew what he deserved, and he was increasingly grateful that he wasn’t getting it. He was grateful because God sent a Substitute who took what he deserved in his place.
Is that you? Do you overflow with gratitude, or are you a “grumbler and faultfinder?” Your happiness will be amplified to the degree that you repent of the I “deserve a break today” language and replace it with the assumptions of the cross.
If you would like to learn more about this subject read my book The Secret Of Spiritual Joy. You can get a copy here.