Monday, October 17, 2016
Well-known radio personality Dave Ramsey holds a daily talk show focusing on personal finances. Each time a caller asks the cliche phrase, “How are ya, Dave?,” his reply is both witty and profound: “Better than I deserve.” He speaks from both personal experience, having bounced back from financial devastation as a younger man, but also from proper theology, understanding that most if not all of God’s blessings on him (and us) are actually undeserved--i.e., forms of mercy.
Despite my Type-A personality, Minnesota-German-Norwegian work ethic, and conviction to not be a burden on my government, family, or friends, I fully agree with Mr. Ramsey’s take on life. We can (and should) strive daily to be our best, get ahead, be responsible, and all the other things that seem proper and good. But when we realize that every breath is a gift from God to live and work and love and grow and develop from infancy to old age (if we’re granted a “long life”), our perspective changes. Life becomes more precious. We become more humble. And loving others is a joy rather than an inconvenience.
I’m preaching to myself here. The older I get, the more impatient I feel in some ways. Set in my ways, I expect traffic, health, money, and relationships to come more easily due to experience, and frankly, a presumption of deservedness. However, when I remember the concept of mercy (manifest on a macro-level but more precious and arguably most effective when offered on a personal level), I’m humbled. I can strive to “do justice” as it says in Micah 6:8, but I aim for the even more profound command in the same verse: “to love mercy” (NKJV). James 2:12-13 puts it this way: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (ESV). James, along with the Apostle Peter, goes on to quote Proverbs 3:34: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Grace equals mercy, often defined as “unmerited (undeserved) favor.”
So, while I really do enjoy mentoring youth toward hard work and earned rewards (treats, pins, standards, club levels, etc.), to love kids when they don’t deserve it is an even more God-honoring call. Mercy is a virtue and ideal to which America itself is indebted through our rebellious founding and past/present sins. Despite my love of our country, I deem “God have mercy on America” to be a deeper prayer than “God bless America” (but I still pray for both!). Nonetheless, our nation remains a beacon for the world of showing mercy to the weak. And knowing how much mercy is shown to me by God on a daily and even moment-by-moment basis, I try to show mercy to the Jugheads, fostering in them a love of that divine virtue, lest it be forgotten in all of our clamor for getting what we supposedly deserve.