As we draw closer to resurrection Sunday, I have been thinking about grace and pride. Those two topics may not seem to go together, but they both have been in my thoughts often. Grace is defined as unmerited favor, but as I have been searching my heart to see how much I attribute to grace and how often my heart is prideful of my works, I have found there is no grace in the presence of pride. The moment we take pride in our righteousness, we automatically feel deserving of grace and then it is no longer grace, rather it becomes a wage – something we have earned by our own efforts.
It is so evident in my life that I can do nothing of my own accord – especially when I look deeply at the motives of my heart and discover that even my best works are done with a sinful, selfish, and prideful heart – and so if there is any good that I do, it is done only because of the grace of God that works through me. It has taken long years for me to see that all of my good works are tainted. I love my children – this good work of love and sacrifice – because they love me back and because they are a source of pride and joy. I do not love unconditionally – not really – not in my own power. And this is but one example. The same is true for all of the good I do – the motives of my heart are never completely pure.
With the condemning evidence of my heart to testify against me, I would think there would be no battle with pride, and yet I cannot escape it. The moment I am humbled and brought to my knees by the depth of my own sin and awed by the grace of God that works in me despite my sin, my heart is instantly prideful over my humility. Without help, I cannot escape this awful pride.
But while my prideful heart may condemn me, grace is still bountifully evident in my life. Grace – that unmerited favor that God grants simply because it is his to give – overflows in my life, more abundantly than I even realize. Just as I cannot escape my pride, I cannot even begin to comprehend the depth of grace offered to me.
Today I was reading the parable of the householder in Matthew chapter 20 who went out to hire workers for his vineyard. He went out early and hired laborers who agreed to work for a penny a day. Throughout the day the householder continued to go out and hire laborers for his vineyard, even until the eleventh hour. At the end of the day, he paid each laborer a penny from the first to the last. Those who had only worked an hour could readily see that the householder had been gracious unto them, but those who had worked all day expected even more than that which they had agreed upon. They felt cheated because the householder chose to be gracious with his wages.
I know this parable is about God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and His grace toward the Gentiles, but when I finished reading this story, I found myself still thinking about pride and grace. I thought about the pride those early workers might have had in the work they had accomplished and I could understand how they felt deserving of their wage. But of course Christ pointed out in this story that the vineyard and the money belonged to the householder and that he did not cheat those early workers when he paid them that upon which they had agreed. Granted they did labor for their wage, but they saw no grace in that they were chosen to work. The householder could hire whomever he wanted – it was his choice to hire them. He was gracious to hire them.
When I finished, I wondered how often I am like those early workers who felt deserving of their wage without gratitude for the grace that allowed them to labor. The reality is I am really more often like those laborers who only toiled for an hour and yet received a full day’s wage – a benefactor of grace.