Don’t We Get What We Deserve?

Don’t We Get What We Deserve?


Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP

There is a belief rampant among us that goes something like this- “Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished.” It is a devastating belief for us personally, and it leads us to be critical and judgemental of others. Self-condemnation is a heart killer. Being blaming and critical of others is a relationship killer.

Our culture also seems to support the premise that it is Ok to blame others for our failures. At a recent boxing match a fan drank too much, got into a fight, and ultimately fell down a flight of stairs. His family wanted “justice,” so they hired a lawyer and sued. Included in their lawsuit was Ticket Master, the company that sold the man the ticket to the boxing match.

Last, but not least, our “justice” mentality makes us believe that God is upset with us when we fail, and we are deserving of his punishment or lack of protection. We therefore live in fear of His punishment, or become bitter with Him when painful circumstances come our way. We may think we deserve the punishment, at one level, but we hate God for it anyway.

Painful circumstances are a normal part of our existence here on earth and have nothing to do with God’s punishment. He made it very clear to us that all of our punishment was nailed to the cross- “…having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:14)

That cancelled debt is ours for the asking. But, we resist asking because we don’t believe that we deserve it.

The concept of justice suggests that someone must pay for wrongdoing. God is not opposed to that. What we do not seem to understand is that the penalty for our wrongs has been paid for, and we are to move on- without fear- “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12) Someone else got what we deserved.

Self-condemnation is a choice. We have to decide whether we will believe what God has said about us, or what we define as our just desserts.