But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” [Luke 23:40-41 (NLT)]
We’re hosting family and friends for Thanksgiving dinner and I’m still planning the menu. One guest won’t eat anything green, another doesn’t eat seafood, one dislikes turkey, and two are vegetarians. While I’m still working on appetizers, salad, main course and sides, dessert is a given. Between the sweets our guests are bringing and my pecan pumpkin pie topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream, even the pickiest eater will be happy! I probably could please everyone with just desserts!
Thinking of eating just desserts reminded me of a show I saw several years ago about non-traditional Thanksgiving menus. Prepared by the owner of a confectionery, the entire meal consisted of sweets masquerading as traditional savory holiday dishes. The turkey was formed of dark and light chocolate and the mashed potatoes and gravy were a white cake heaped in a bowl, topped with buttercream frosting, and drizzled with butterscotch syrup. The dinner rolls were doughnuts, the yams were sweet pumpkin soufflé, and the peas were made of marzipan. After their initial dismay, everyone enjoyed eating just desserts. In fact, upon cleaning his dinner plate, one little boy asked for dessert!
The life God give us isn’t like that holiday dinner of just desserts; there always will be things like sadness, trouble, loss, and pain. We didn’t enjoy them the first time around and certainly don’t want second or third helpings. Nevertheless, like that little boy, rather than relishing whatever sweetness we’re given, we often think we deserve more. While we might prefer a life of just desserts, what we don’t want is one of just deserts!
You see, in spite of their similar pronunciation, the phrases “just desserts” and “just deserts” are not the same thing. “Just deserts” uses a now obsolete definition of “desert” as “something that is deserved” and precedes the mid-16th century concept of an after dinner sweet called “dessert” by several hundred years.
In fact, we’re blessed that God doesn’t give us our just deserts. As sinners, we don’t even deserve the blessings we’ve already been given. We certainly don’t deserve God’s love—a love so great that He sacrificed His only son for us. Without sin, Jesus didn’t get His just deserts when he suffered on the cross; He took our just deserts! Dying so that we might live, our Lord got what He didn’t deserve so that we could receive what we didn’t! We deserve condemnation and punishment but God’s mercy gives us love and forgiveness. Let’s be careful when we demand what we truly deserve from God; we don’t want Him to give us our just deserts!
The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales. [John Stott]