God’s grace is often described as “unmerited favor,” but just mentioning merit as a consideration in our most important relationship can plant seeds of doubt that are difficult to overcome. Instead of confidently seeking God’s will for our lives, we can go through life wondering if there is a limit to how much unmerited favor we will receive. “If I do one more thing that disappoints God, will he decide that I crossed the line and stop showing me favor?”
To illustrate, if you thank a close friend for doing you a favor, he will likely say, “I was happy to do it.” If instead he responded, “I did you an undeserved favor,” you might wonder if he really was your friend. Similarly, to express how much he cared about a son, a father would never say, “Son, you have my unmerited favor.” That would not make his son feel secure. It is natural for a father (and especially God) to love and show favor to his children; merit has nothing to do with it.
God’s interaction with Gideon also helps us see why bringing “unmerited” into the discussion of grace is not helpful. Gideon saw himself as the least in the weakest family in Manasseh, yet God sent his angel to convince Gideon that he was the one to lead the Israelites in battle against a powerful enemy. But if the angel of the Lord who called Gideon “mighty warrior” had said, “The Lord is with you, mighty but undeserving warrior,” it would have been even more difficult to convince Gideon that he had the favor of God.
When we focus on how undeserving we are to receive God’s favor, we end up thinking more about ourselves than about God. But God’s favor has more to do with his loving nature, than with how deserving or undeserving we are to receive it. The Complete Guide to Grace by James L. Lefler clears up common misconceptions about grace and explains why it is more beneficial to focus on the many ways God shows his unimaginable favor than to dwell on our lack of merit.