In God’s economy of blessing, how liberal am I? Do I exact retribution before offering blessing or do I let the blessings flow?
Earlier today I worked in the yard with my kids. At some point I chose which child would use the loppers – a highly desired job – instead of weeding. I realized I granted the privilege of doing this special job in the yard to the kids who were working most diligently and sweetly as they pulled weeds.
There is nothing wrong with rewarding good behavior, but is it right to behave punitively toward someone for their difficult behavior? Something in my heart was simultaneously pleased to bless the diligent workers and secretly justified to withhold blessing from those who were complaining.
Doesn’t God say, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19)?
So what was I doing repaying complaint and laziness by withholding the fun job? Isn’t that a little bit of vengeance?
The lines get a little blurry since I am the authority under which my kids live. But the line in my heart is clearly defined. Am I intervening on behalf of my children – even those who defy me – or to punish them? I guess it’s the difference between disciplining and punishing my kids. Between correcting my kids and provoking them to wrath. Perhaps it comes down to one question: am I seeking restoration or restitution?
See I am told to bring my children up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21). Nowhere in scripture am I called to raise them in the vengeance of the Lord.
No, if I am to show them what it looks like to live under an authority who acts in their best interest, I need to practice the same liberality God does toward me in Christ.
I experience the infinite liberality of God in my salvation. I deserve God’s wrath and to experience the full curse of my sin, but I receive grace and His Spirit and blessing. He doesn’t leave me without correction, but he disciplines and gently restores me. He does not punish me. All punishment was poured out on Christ.
I often see his liberality toward me in practical matters as well – sufficient income to meet our family’s needs, special gifts which provide more than we could ask toward certain wants, the hearts of a people who love me into faithfulness…
However many blessings we expect from God, His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts.
I don’t think John Calvin was talking exclusively about material blessings here (though that’s where we tend to measure God’s goodness, isn’t it?).
I think he is talking a lot about grace. And the measure to which I understand God’s grace toward me, is the measure to which I will extend it to others.
Will I turn God’s liberality around to the folks with whom I interact?
Will I express his great liberality in the lives of my children? Will I act in a gracious, in-their-best-interest-even-if-I-must-sacrifice way? Even when they whine and complain?
Will I do that for people who are against me? Who don’t like me? Who see my life as an affront to their choices?
Will I stand in Christ’s place, take up my cross, and sacrificially and liberally love others into the kingdom?