October 21, 2018

Does God Owe or Own You?

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Luke Scripture: Luke 7:1–10

Does God Owe Or Own You?

Luke 7:1–10
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Pastor Randy Smith


According to Webster the word is defined as a right to benefits, a belief that one is deserving of certain privileges. The word I am referring to of course is “entitlement.” And we are breeding an entire generation that believes they are entitled to things they have never earned.

I deserve respect and admiration from others. I deserve a free college education and health care. I deserve US citizenship. I deserve an award. I deserve to have others not just tolerate, but accept my beliefs. I deserve to have a “safe space” where I am sheltered from the beliefs of others I deem offensive. I deserve to be married and have children. I deserve a nice house and higher paying job. The bottom line – the world owes me!

You want to be a popular politician? Simple! Just promise people all these things that they want. Of course you can’t deliver, but you’ll have a good chance of being elected in this world of fantasy in which we live. Yet as Margaret Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.”

At least some are beginning to recognize this as a serious problem. I read one article on the Internet that gave 15 ways to know if you are suffering from what the author calls, “entitlement complex.” Here are some examples:

    • You impose unrealistic demands on others.


    • You create dramatic attention-seeking situations when you don’t get your way.


    • You believe you deserve happiness and will seek to achieve it at the expense of others.


    • You often blame others, but excuse yourself for the same actions.


    • You take more than you give in friendships and relationships.


    • You crave admiration and adoration.


  • You have a hard time negotiating or compromising.


Do you have a sense of entitlement? Even if you don’t think so, you probably feel you deserve one!

This same belief shows up in the Christian life as well. Though it is rarely stated publicly, we believe that God owes us. The unbiblical way of reasoning is simple to explain. 1. Life revolves around me. 2. God exists for my purposes. 3. And God is required to show His love by giving me what I want. It is pride over humility. It is self-worship over God worship. It is satanic over Christlikeness. Sometimes I see it when people simply believe God owes them because He is God. Other times I see it when people simply believe God owes them because of what they have done. Either way – God is indebted to me and I am entitled to His service. We can call this syndrome, “Divine Entitlement.”

Today’s lesson will deal with this from a biblical perspective as we examine Luke 7:1-10. Two simple points for the outline, each covering five verses – “Worthy” and “Unworthy.”

Worthy (verses 1–5)

Let’s dig into the text.

Verse 1, “When [Jesus] had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum.”

The “discourse” Jesus “completed” is obviously the sermon that is recorded in the previous verses in chapter 6. Jesus now goes to Capernaum. This is Luke’s first recording of our Lord encountering a Gentile.

We learn in verse 2 that this Gentile was a Centurion. A Centurion was a captain of the Roman army often with 100 soldiers assigned to his authority. This is also the first of three occasions where Luke mentions a Centurion. There was this one, the one at the cross who proclaimed, “Certainly this man [in reference to Jesus] was innocent” (Lk. 23:47) and Cornelius in Acts 10 who receives Christ. All are favorable accounts and all contrary to mainline Jewish belief that all of Rome is evil and God does not receive Gentiles. That is clearly not the case according to Scripture.

In verse 2 we also learn that this Centurion had a slave. The slave was extremely sick with a terminal illness and about to die. And to the shock of Luke’s readers, this Centurion “highly regarded” the young boy and was very concerned for his health. I say shocking because slaves to Roman soldiers often came with no emotional attachment. They were viewed as inhuman, dispensable objects only to serve their purposes. A slave dies and you simply replace him with another. The tender heart of this particular Centurion was very uncommon.

We also learn something else quite unique about this Centurion. In 4:37 we learned that “the report about [Jesus] was spreading into every locality. Obviously the Centurion heard about Jesus. And verse 3 says when he heard about Jesus, he immediately in his mind identified Jesus as the cure for his slave’s illness. Unique because the Romans had their own gods and own religion. Not only were they believed to be more effective, but to go outside the Roman faith was deemed to be unpatriotic. The very deities that the Romans believed delivered them success on the battlefield were stubbed by a Centurion (of all people) in favor of this Jewish rabbi.

But the account even gets stranger when we read in verse 3 that this Roman captain requested that “some Jewish elders” go to Jesus and ask Him to save “the life of his slave.” You see, for a Gentile officer to ask a Jew for a favor was the ultimate sign of humility – a virtue that was not praised by Roman society. Not only did the Centurion swallow his pride in asking a Jew for help, but he also swallowed his pride because he felt unworthy to speak to Jesus himself. Folks, this attitude is not what comes to mind when we read the history books that describe the Roman army. And it might be even stranger that these Jewish elders go on a Gentile’s behalf!

Well, according to verses 4 and 5 the Jewish elders do indeed go to Jesus on behalf of the Centurion. Here is what they say: “When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, ‘He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.”

Their point is simply this: He’s a good man based on what he has done for our nation. Therefore, he deserves to have his favors satisfied. Jesus, he is “worthy” for Your provision. He is entitled for your service. On our nation’s behalf, you owe this to Him. He has merited Your attention, Jesus.

Anything unbiblical about that assumption?

Does God really owe us anything? Romans 11:35-36, “Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.” Romans 9:20-21, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” Job 41:11, “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”

I can still remember reading my Bible and for the first time really struggling when I arrived at Matthew 20. Each servant in the vineyard works differ amounts of hours, but each servant receives the same wages. I was grumbling just like the men in that account! They say, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day” (Matt. 20:12). And what was our Lord’s response? “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous? (Matt. 20:13-15).

We want entitlement. We want payback. But when it comes to God it simply does not work that way. Not only is everything already His, but He is the Creator and we are the created. He is perfectly holy and we are sinful. And God in His majesty and glory and sovereignty will not permit Himself to be our debtor.

We had a great Men’s Night last Friday. Mark taught on financial debt and used the Proverb, “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Pr. 22:7). God will not put Himself in the position of being the sinner’s slave.

God owes me! In other words, I am mad at God because of all I do for Him – something I wanted was never delivered or something I didn’t want came upon me. Or this might be a belief that God owes me salvation. Either because that is what a good God should do or because I have attained His favor based upon my good works. So however you wish to slice it, God is indebted to me because of my goodness and my perception as to how He should respond.

What a misunderstanding of my fallen nature and God’s glorious nature. Let’s set the record straight. The only thing God owes you and I is hell. Let’s start there and remind ourselves that anything beyond that is an act of God’s grace. You see, the more I trust in my self-righteousness, seen by God as “filthy rags,” the more my sense of deservedness or entitlement will actually keep me from knowing Christ. Hell comes from pride leading to merit leading to divine entitlement. Heaven results from unworthiness leading to desperation leading to grace and mercy.

Unworthy (verses 6–10)

Let’s go to the second half of these verses. I am calling this point, “Unworthy.”

Verse 6, “Now Jesus started on His way with them.” He went with the Jewish elders and was approaching the Centurion’s house. Yet the verse says, “When He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, ‘Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof.’” In other words, the Centurion now has second thoughts and sends a second delegation to Jesus. He still wants his slave healed, but first he felt unworthy to ask Jesus personally and now he feels unworthy to have Jesus even enter his house.

Here is the man’s plan. Verse 7, “For this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” The key word is “worthy.” In contrast to the Jewish leaders who said he was worthy (verse 4), the Centurion himself said in verses 6 and 7 that he is “not worthy.”

You see the main point? “Jesus> you need to help this man because he is worthy” contrasted with “Jesus will you help me because I am unworthy.” These are opposites, so what heart does God want? We’ll come back to that!

The captain’s motives are now revealed. Verse 8, “For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

As a leader he understands authority. He tells those subjected to him what he wants done and there is the expectation that they will obey whether or not he is physically present. There is power in his word. Likewise, he believed there is power in Christ’s word as well. Jesus didn’t need to be physically present to heal the young boy. Why? Because the words of Christ have power (as we have been learning in the early chapters of Luke) over disease, sickness, demons and even death.

How did our Lord feel about this? Verse 9, “Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, ‘I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.””

Another unbelievable point of this story! That Jesus would praise the faith of an uncircumcised pagan Gentile and use him as a spiritual object lesson to the Jews, His chosen people who have been exposed to the true God and His revelation for centuries!

So what was so impressive about his faith? It was faith that understood his limitations. The man knew all the power of the Roman world couldn’t help his slave and he rested entirely in the power of God to do the impossible if it be God’s will. He knew Jesus would just need to speak the word. That is an example of God-honoring faith. Total trust in the character, will and promises of God.

Verse 10, “When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.” Or the parallel verse in Matthew 8:13. “And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment.”

There is a very clear point that Luke is making for his Gentile readers. Not only is the Jewish belief wrong that assumed God’s favor was based on our merit – being religious, obeying the law, biological pedigree – but rather that God’s favor is ultimately based of God’s goodness and our desperation. And that favor God extends goes to all people, including Gentiles, even Gentile leaders in the despised Roman army. My friends, this is all about grace.

Remember 4:27, “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Lk. 4:27). Chapter 15, “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found’” (Lk. 15:21-24). Chapter 18, “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:13-14).

You see, the “worthiness” of the Centurion was the Jews own spin, but clearly not the attitude he had toward himself. He knew he was unworthy and that the line into God’s heart is not championing his worthiness, but acknowledging his unworthiness and pleading for His mercy. What moves God is not our supposed goodness or trophies of righteousness, but rather our desperation and cry to Him for grace. If we could earn it, grace would no longer be grace. Grace by its very definition is giving us what we do not deserve. If we were entitled to God’s favor, it would be a wage that we are due. But since we have merited nothing from God and God being God owes us nothing, we see His favor both in salvation and the blessings that follow all as a token of His undeserved grace and mercy to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to thee for dress,

Helpless, look to thee for grace;

Foul, I to the Fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Properly understanding this is fundamental to life. I remember having a conversation with lady this week who said a family relative does not come to Christ because he thinks he is unworthy. My friends, that is the requirement to come to Christ! And before we point fingers, how often do we feel God will love us more if we do more or God will rescind His love of we do less? How often do we dwell on divine entitlement that somehow God owes us because we have merited His favor?

Even the great theologian, Martin Luther, confessed, “For almost twenty years and I still feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal with God that I may contribute something, so that He will have to give me His grace in exchange for my holiness. And still I cannot get into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace” (Works, p. 284-285).

For the Christian, it’s all about understanding God’s amazing grace and then responding with an eternal attitude of gratitude. It’s God’s grace that motivates us and it’s God’s grace that empowers us to obey Him – obedience not to earn His grace, but obedience that flows from His grace and demonstrates His grace to ourselves and others.

You see, doing good in dependence on God does just the opposite of paying Him back. All Christian labor for Him is a gift from Him. Good deeds when done as a pure act of His grace do not pay back grace, but borrow more grace from Him. Without God’s grace we would not and could not serve Him. Therefore, even our service does not put Him in debt to us, but rather puts us deeper in debt to His grace. And that is where God wants us to be throughout eternity.

We joyfully submit to our Savior as Lord and we do just as those under the Centurion all that He commands of us. Not that God would pay us back or we would pay God back, but a loving response in appreciation of His goodness and faith in His commands. It’s all of grace and our salvation and deeds for Him simply reveal God’s grace in us all to the praise of His glory.

other sermons in this series

Apr 25


The Final Charge

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Luke 24:44–53 Series: Luke

Apr 18


The Primacy of Scripture To See and Serve Jesus

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Luke 24:32–46 Series: Luke

Apr 11


Hope To Overcome Despair

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Luke 24:13–32 Series: Luke