In one of his rarely correct statements, Zophar’s first speech to Job contained this comment: “Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves” (Job 11:6b). It is a fact that for our actions, we deserve justice… and pray for mercy.
The historical humorist, Mark Twain, once said, “It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.” Where Christianity is concerned, we do not deserve ANY honors. Luke makes it plain that “when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10). And, so the Latin proverb goes: “In doing what we ought we deserve no praise.”
This does not advocate a total void of encouragement and edification; everyone needs that occasional slap on the back or an “Attaboy” to lift the spirits. However, in a culture that has flooded the market with “participation ribbons,” there is little motivation to do anything where there is no recognition – no return, no investment. Christianity is the polar opposite.
The Christian servant is not defined by what we “deserve,” perceived or pretended (Matthew 23:5). We pray in the closet, not to be seen (Matthew 6:6). We do our good deeds with discretion (Matthew 6:2-3). We help the fallen when no one is watching (Luke 10:33ff). We are seen of God.
We are deserving of justice, for we are all fatally flawed; but the mercy of God manifests itself in His patience with us and in His allowing us opportunity to quietly lift the fallen (Galatians 6:10), knowing our reward is in Heaven.