Luke 4:28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.
This whole story is one I have loved for a long time, particularly where Jesus reads Isaiah 61:1-2 and says He is its fulfillment, but it struck me just now, perhaps for the first time, that the two examples Jesus gives, the Sidonian woman and Naaman, were both Gentiles. No wonder the people of Nazareth were upset. They had just been told that Gentiles would be chosen by God ahead of them! At the same time, both the stories Jesus referenced point up the grace of God. Paul goes into this issue at length in Romans 9-11. We have a strong desire for entitlement, to think we are due certain blessings, but the Bible is very clear that everything is a matter of grace. Looking around us today we can see the damage caused by a sense of entitlement, with people engaging in all sorts of behaviors that are destructive to themselves and/or to those around them because they haven’t been given everything to which they think they are entitled. That kind of thinking can literally send people to hell. Jesus was very clear on this issue. When people came to Him to report some tragic deaths, His response was to give them another similar example and say twice, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5) We forget that we aren’t entitled to a thing, because our sins have forfeited it all. Once we get that straight in our minds and hearts, we are grateful for God’s grace and far happier. It is fine to strive for the best, but we need to remember that God isn’t obligated to give us anything He hasn’t explicitly promised us – and the vast majority of those promises come with conditions that we are likely not to have met. God is gracious and He is love and He delights to do good things for His children, but we need to remember that we aren’t entitled to any of it; it’s all grace.
This was a lesson I almost didn’t learn, and failing to learn it would have destroyed me. I grew up as a Caucasian in Japan, which allowed me to get away with a lot of stuff that a more oriental-looking child could not have done. On top of that, my parents were considered very “high status,” for a number of reasons, and I took it all as a matter of course. On top of that, school work came easy for me, and I fell into the attitude that I was indeed “the cream of the cream,” and I was entitled to everything I enjoyed. It wasn’t until I was a married father that I heard the testimony of a man who had been a preacher’s kid but had lived for his flesh and the world, until God made it clear that he couldn’t get into heaven by hanging onto his father’s belt. I was struck to my core, and felt like God was showing me a mirror to see my own soul. I suddenly realized that my sense of entitlement was all a lie, and it had blinded me both to the depth of my need and the height of God’s grace. How very merciful of God, to open my eyes! I wish I could say that pride and entitlement never tripped me up again after that, but honesty is certainly the best policy. Just yesterday I was saying that one of my foundational attributes at this point is gratitude, but it has taken me a long time to get here. I see so many people around me who seem blind to the blessings they have, and so fail to recognize and enjoy them. Just as John Newton realized, the more we understand God’s grace, the more amazing, the more wonderful it is.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You indeed for the uncountable abundance of Your grace toward me. Help me be an open channel of that grace to all around me, so that they too may recognize you, repent, and believe for their salvation. Thank You. Hallelujah!