Abuses of Grace

I went to the grocery store yesterday with Jane and we were having a perfectly ordinary shopping trip, observing the people around us and grabbing our groceries before heading to the checkout line.  And then I witnessed something that still just burns me up and breaks my heart.

I had earlier observed a mom, probably around my age, with two littles in a cart and a baby in a sling.  Well, she was two ahead of me in the checkout line and as she checked out the cashier read off a number of her purchases to tell her what food stamps would and wouldn’t cover.  She then proceeded to swipe her card and the bagger helped her out to her car.  And then.  The woman behind her (once she was out of earshot, I think) very grumpily rolled her eyes and said to the cashier, “Doesn’t that just make you want to say ‘You’re welcome’ for buying her nearly $200 of groceries.”  I was flabbergasted and ashamed and I felt a response rise up from within me that seldom is ready immediately.  But I didn’t spit it out, I kept my response to myself all the while feeling the heat rise up in my face and not go down until well after I left the store.

I was furious.  I was angry at the stingy and self righteous attitude of the woman in front of me.  I was angry at the whole of society.  And I was angry at the Church, because if we were doing our job right, would our countrymen and women be hungry and need government assistance?  And I don’t mean the Church as an organization.  I mean the Body of Christ being His hands and feed, feeding and caring for our neighbors.  I mean people like me.  I am angry at me.

The truth is, I don’t know that young mother’s story, and I don’t know the story of the grumpy lady.  But I do know stories of many others who have been/are on public assistance.  And I wanted to say to this woman, “No. It doesn’t want me to tell her you’re welcome.  Because I don’t know her story, and I don’t know yours either, but I do know this—I am blessed to have enough food to eat and a roof over my head and I’m happy to put a face with my tax dollars and know that I played some small part in keeping those precious children fed.  And if you are in such a bad place that you resent whatever part you may have played, I’d be happy to buy your lunch.”

I am guilty of being frustrated with abuses of the system and making snap judgments of others, but as I reflected on this particular experience the Lord impressed upon my heart that I am worse than any abuser of public assistance.  For I am an abuser of His precious blood.  Am I not convicted of sin one moment and do that very thing the next?  Do I not willfully sin and thereby abuse His grace?

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:1-4 NIV

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21 ESV

I am still heartbroken when I think about yesterday, and I still don’t know if I didn’t say something because I was afraid of confrontation, or if the Holy Spirit stopped me because it would have cause me to become prideful.  I really don’t know.   But I prayed both for the young mom and the older woman.  And for myself.  And the Lord convicted me about my attitude toward a particular need that was presented to me earlier this week.

May we all be reminded how much we have to be thankful for, especially during this season of Thanksgiving.  And may I be continually reminded of my abuses of grace when I am frustrated with others.

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