The Preposterousness of God
by Larry d. Wright
Our God is a preposterous God, especially when it comes to grace.
An example of the preposterousness of God’s grace can be seen in the classic novel Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. The central character in the amazing story is a man named Jean Valjean. He was sentenced to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his hungry children. After spending nineteen years in prison he was released a very bitter man.
Freed at last, Valjean gets a taste of reality when he, an ex-convict, is denied food and lodging in a village inn even though he has some money. Eventually a friendly bishop invites him home and offers him a meal and a bed. He dines with the man of God on a table set with the finest silver and chinaware.
Unbelievably, during the night Valjean steals the bishop’s expensive silver and slips into the dark. Once apprehended by the police he immediately resorts to lying claiming that the silver was a gift. The police take him and the stolen goods back to the home of the bishop.
The story takes another interesting surprise when the bishop says that he is glad to see him stating that he also intended him to have the silver candlesticks as well. The authorities have no choice but to let him go. This amazing act of forgiveness and grace makes such a profound impression on Valjean that he is transformed into a new person. He spends the rest of life serving others and showing the same mercy that was extended to him.
This story illustrates the preposterousness of God when it comes to grace. Like Jean Valjean, we become the recipients of grace, receiving what we do not deserve, and mercy, not receiving what we should receive. God shows us grace and mercy even though we do not deserve either. The transfer is designed to make such an impression that we, like Valjean, are transformed into a new person who spends the rest of our life showing mercy to others.
Jesus shared an “eleventh hour” parable about some workers in a vineyard. It was designed to reveal the unnaturalness of God’s loving generosity. The major point of this difficult parable is clear: God’s giving nature is beyond the ordinary, in fact, it is preposterous. It is a complete inversion of the way that we do things. All of the blessings that God bestows upon us are a reflection of His grace.
You would think that we would understand this truth and simply receive God’s grace. However, still we try to earn what is free and in the process miss the blessings. Even the likes of Martin Luther struggled with this point. Listen to what he wrote in 1532:
“I myself have not been preaching and cultivating it [faith and grace] and still the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that God will have to give me His grace in exchange for my holiness. And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender [to Him] alone…”
God’s grace is so unnatural, so preposterous that it is difficult to comprehend and accept. To us it seems that our relationship with God is based on merit and achievement. It is so tempting to keep score and always we feel that God owes us something. However, the message of grace is this: God does not owe you anything but He chooses to give anyway. That, friend, is preposterous!