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The Do-Over God

October 17, 2022

“God, have mercy on me a sinner” (Luke 18: 13) 

When our youngest son, Peter, started law school about six years ago, I remember thumbing through his Contracts textbook.  The law of contracts includes a study of what constitutes an offer and an acceptance.  I thought of that when I meditated on next week’s Scriptures, which relate to the concept of what constitutes an offering acceptable to God. [1]

The firstborn sons of Adam and Eve pursued different occupations.  Cain was a farmer, and Abel, a shepherd.  The Old Testament reading is an account of the offerings they each brought to the Lord.  Cain brought something he had grown on the land; Abel brought the firstborn of his flock.  We don’t know why, but God did not accept Cain’s offering. Some scholars have suggested that Cain may have had an improper attitude, or the offering was deficient in some way.  God encouraged him to try again (Genesis 4: 7), but Cain reacted angrily, and killed his brother.  

In the law of contracts, if an offer is not accepted, there is no deal, and the parties are free to try again.  But Cain’s refusal to admit his mistake, to take a do-over, was his bane.  It would plague him the rest of his life.   God is the Do-Over God. He is a God of second chances.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but when we offer our talents, our time, and other resources for his glory, he asks us to do our best, and to bring our offerings to him with an attitude of humility. 

Humility was a problem for the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable.  His prayer was not acceptable to God because even though he addressed God, he wasn’t praying to God—he was praying to himself and to the others around him: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” (Luke 18: 11,12).  He wanted to boast of his piety and he wanted others to hear about how good he was.  

The tax collector, on the other hand, offered a simple and humble prayer to God: “God, have mercy on me a sinner” (v. 13).  Jesus tells us that the Pharisee’s prayer will not be accepted by God.  He didn’t close the deal; he didn’t connect to God.  He didn’t realize that God invites us to confess our mistakes, because he is the Do-Over God. On the other hand, the humble tax collector sealed the deal, and was “sent home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (v. 14).  He admitted his mistakes and his humility pleased God.

We see in the epistle lesson that Paul viewed his life as an offering to God as he was sitting on death row: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.” (2 Timothy 4:6).  In Biblical times, a drink offering was made by pouring wine onto an altar as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 35:14; Exodus 29:41). Its fragrance was considered pleasing to God.  As Paul was facing his death, he was calm, knowing that he was dying in faith and would see his Lord Jesus again.  

Instead of comparing yourself to other sinners, offer your best in prayer and in life to God.  If you do that with a humble heart, it will be accepted.  You will seal the deal and connect with your Savior for eternity.  And don’t worry if you mess up.  Be humble, admit your mistakes, and take a do-over. God accepts do-overs. 

Prayer: Father, we thank and praise you for being the Do-Over God—for giving us opportunities every day to receive your forgiveness for our wayward ways. Remove our self-righteousness, foolish pride, and self-centeredness that makes us hurt each other.  Deliver us from our self-love and from false ambitions. Send your Spirit to guide us to do your will in all things, so that at the end of our lives, we may enter into peace with you.  We ask these things in the name of your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost are Psalm 5; Genesis 4:1-15; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18: 9-17

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