Will You Benefit From Undeserved Kindness?
“THE more I learned of God’s standards in the Bible, the less I felt worthy of his favor and blessing,” said Frank. His interest in the Bible had been roused while he was in prison for drug offenses. He read a copy of the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life,* felt sure that what it said was the truth, and, after being released from prison, contacted Jehovah’s Witnesses to learn more about the Bible.
Why did studying the Bible make him feel unworthy? Because his past life-style had violated many of God’s principles. Misuse of drugs, alcohol abuse, and various other degrading habits had brought him so low that on one occasion a policeman said to him: “Would you please tell me your home address? I just want to know where to send your corpse!”
What later made him feel most unworthy, though, was that however hard he tried, he found it very difficult to conquer these ingrained unclean habits. The degrading hold of alcoholism, for example, almost defeated him. “I had failed miserably again and again and was very depressed,” he said. “I almost gave up on myself completely, feeling that I was a hopeless case.”
Others may not have had such a past as Frank. But they may, nevertheless, have deep feelings of inadequacy. This may be because they set unreasonably high standards for themselves as they try to live up to what they feel are God’s demands. When they fail, they feel guilty. “Guilt can be a nightmare,” explains Dr. Claire Weekes in her book Self-Help for Your Nerves, “particularly to those trying to set a high standard for themselves.” What can a Christian do if he is affected by such feelings of unworthiness?
Appreciate Undeserved Kindness
“One thing that helped me greatly,” said Frank, “was to appreciate what the Bible says at Hebrews 4:15, 16.” The apostle Paul there reminds us that Jesus is a caring helper who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” and who has made it possible for us to “obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”
Would you like a key to conquering feelings of unworthiness? It is this: Remember that Jehovah God and Jesus Christ know that we are weak because of inherited imperfection. They understand that we cannot measure up perfectly to righteous standards. (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23; 5:12, 18; James 3:2) They therefore do not expect more of us than we can give. They look for our good points, not our weaknesses. The psalmist asked: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3) You can appreciate that none of us could. Through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, however, Jehovah can mercifully give us a clean standing despite our imperfections. (1 John 2:2; 4:9, 10) We can get “the forgiveness of our trespasses”—and thus be helped to overcome any feelings of worthlessness—“according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.”—Ephesians 1:7.
Look at it this way. People who love works of art will go to great lengths to restore badly damaged paintings or other works of art. When, for example, in the National Gallery in London, England, someone with a shotgun damaged a Leonardo da Vinci cartoon worth £20 million (about $32 million, U.S.) no one suggested that since the drawing was now damaged, it should be discarded. Work to restore the 487-year-old masterpiece began immediately. Why? Because it was precious in the eyes of art lovers.
Are you not worth more than a chalk and charcoal drawing? In God’s eyes you certainly are—however damaged you may be by inherited sinfulness. (Psalm 72:12-14; Matthew 20:28) Jehovah God, the skilled original Creator of the human family, will do what is necessary to restore to perfection members of that family who are willing to respond to his loving care.—Compare Acts 3:21; Romans 8:20-22.
Respond to Undeserved Kindness
Follow the example of the apostle Paul. He greatly appreciated God’s kindness in mercifully forgiving him his past errors as well as in constantly supporting his struggle to overcome recurring weaknesses. (Romans 7:15-25; 1 Corinthians 15:9, 10) Paul corrected his course of life and also ‘pummeled his body and led it as a slave’ to stay on a course approved by God. (1 Corinthians 9:27) He did not let his body, with its sinful physical and emotional inclinations, lead him as a slave.
Accept God’s undeserved kindness, and let it lead you to repentance. (Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 6:1) If past wrongs trouble you, rectify them and then believe Jehovah’s assurance that he has forgiven you. (Isaiah 1:16-18; Acts 2:38) If persistent weaknesses plague you, keep fighting them. Earnestly pray for Jehovah’s help to overcome them while at the same time you throw yourself on his mercy. (Psalm 55:22) Drawing on his own experience, Frank advises: “When someone on occasion fails in his fight against some bad habit, he should not view it as a total, final failure but, rather, as a temporary setback.” If others add to your problems by demanding more of you than you can give, remember that it is God you are trying to please, not men.—Galatians 1:10.
In your fight to do what is right, guard against the “crafty acts” of Satan, what could be called “the Devil’s evil tricks.” (Ephesians 6:11, Reference Bible, footnote; Today’s English Version) Consider two “evil tricks” that he will use to try to deprive you of the benefits of undeserved kindness.
Satan’s “Evil Tricks”
The Devil exploits feelings of worthlessness to try to draw you away from God. Satan is the source of the sin that damaged you in the first place. Now he may try to encourage the feeling that you are worthless in God’s eyes, as Bildad tried to do to Job. (Job 25:4-6; John 8:44) How many battles have been lost because soldiers entered the fight already demoralized! So, do not let Satan demoralize you. (Ephesians 6:10-13) Being aware of Satan’s designs should stimulate you to fight all the harder to do what is right.—2 Corinthians 2:11.
If on occasion you are saddened by failures of one kind or another, make sure that you are not ‘swallowed up by being overly sad.’ (2 Corinthians 2:7) Dr. Claire Weekes commented on the tendency of some to let past failings overwhelm them: “To let past guilt paralyse present action is destructive living.”—See Acts 3:19.
If we could meet all of God’s requirements perfectly, it would be a deserved kindness for him to give us the blessings he has promised. But Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are showing us kindness that is “undeserved.” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, by J. H. Thayer, explains the meaning of the word used by the apostle Paul to describe this quality of God: “The word [khaʹris] contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved.” No works of ours can earn God’s blessing. It is, as Paul says, an undeserved kindness. If you are sincerely doing all you can within your limitations to fulfill your obligations to God, be happy at doing that. Jehovah asks no more of you.
Be aware, however, of another of Satan’s “evil tricks.” He misleads some into thinking that they can take advantage of God’s undeserved kindness, that they can presume on his mercy. Jehovah lovingly forgives our weaknesses, but that does not mean we can stop struggling to overcome them. Paul described some who had “trampled upon the Son of God and . . . outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt.” (Hebrews 10:29) These had shown no respect for righteous principles and contemptuously flouted God’s laws, putting themselves beyond restoration. Jesus’ half brother Jude, who saw the danger posed by such dupes of Satan, wrote: “Certain men have slipped in[to the congregations], . . . ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct.”—Jude 4.
Satan may fool such ones into thinking they can more or less willfully indulge in wrongdoing and then ask God to forgive their sin. But Jehovah will not forgive such willful violators of his laws. He is “abundant in loving-kindness” to those who strive to serve him as best they can despite their imperfections. “But by no means will he give exemption from punishment” when it is due.—Exodus 34:6, 7.
You Can Benefit From Undeserved Kindness
It is comforting to know that Jehovah does not view you only in your imperfect, damaged state. He knows what you can be when the restorative powers of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice are fully applied. Pray confidently to Jehovah, therefore, as the psalmist David did. “Show me favor, O God,” said David, “according to your loving-kindness. According to the abundance of your mercies wipe out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash me from my error, and cleanse me even from my sin. For my transgressions I myself know, and my sin is in front of me constantly. Conceal your face from my sins, and wipe out even all my errors. . . . A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise.”—Psalm 51:1-3, 9, 17.
Your transgressions and failings may be constantly in front of you. At times you may feel like the prodigal son described by Jesus. When this young man returned home after disgracefully squandering his inheritance in foreign places, he exclaimed to his father: “I am no longer worthy of being called your son”! (Luke 15:21) This young man had the right attitude, however. He neither rejected his father’s kindness nor tried to presume on it. So his father lovingly received him back into the household. (Luke 15:20-24) Jehovah is happy to do the same today for sinful people who earnestly try to do his will.—Psalm 103:8-14; Isaiah 55:7.
Frank did not allow feelings of worthlessness to overwhelm him. He responded to God’s undeserved kindness, and he now serves as a ministerial servant in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I jump for joy now,” he says, “when I think of what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have done and will yet do for us!”
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.