Today’s second question comes from Yvette.  She wrote: “I have a question– because God and religion seem so un conclusive and undemanding– does God keep score? If there is a God, does he discredit me because I said “if”? Or does God give extra credit to those who repeat his scripture? And which Scripture would that be??”

Thanks for the great question about whether or not God keeps score when it comes to our lives.  I can certainly understand where the question comes from – because there are a lot of folks out there who talk about God in ways that would suggest judgment and condemnation are the primary characteristics of God.

I see God’s defining characteristic a lot differently.


Primarily because of a parable that Jesus shared: a parable known as The Prodigal Son.  You can find that parable in Luke 15:11-32.

In that parable, a man has two sons.  The older son is loyal and hard-working.  The younger son is neither of these.  In fact, the younger son is so impulsive that he asks his father for his entire inheritance – while his father is still alive!  The younger son promptly goes out and blows the money on frivolous things.

After a short period of time living in poverty, the younger son decides to humble himself and return to his father.  At this point he’s willing to accept whatever crumbs the father might throw his way.

So how does the father handle it?  Does he pull out his scorecard and use it to condemn the younger son – or gloat upon his return?

No.  Instead, the father rejoices at his return and throws a huge party to celebrate.  Of course, this celebration ticks off the older son who – as one dedicated to keeping score – is furious his father would respond so generously.

Jesus’ parable tells me two things.  First, it tells me that God’s defining characteristics are love and mercy, not judgment and condemnation.  Second, it tells me there are those who – like the older son – spend a lot of time around “the Father” who desperately want God to keep score.  To reward the winners and punish the losers!

My job, in all of this, is to spend my life proclaiming a loving and merciful God who is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS willing to celebrate and embrace us – no matter what the scorecard of our life may read at any given moment – and to patiently love (at least on my good days) those who proclaim a different understanding of God.

So what about you?  What do you think about all of this?

About Pastor Craig

I'm a 55-year-old who currently lives in Los Angeles, CA but will soon be moving to New Jersey. I'm an ordained clergy person in the United Church of Christ. My passions include spirituality, politics, and sports (Go Houston teams, go!). I use my blog to start conversations rather than merely spout my perspectives and opinions. I hope you'll post a question, comment, or observation for me to respond - so we can get the conversation started!
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3 Responses to Scorecard?

  1. Beverly Marshall Saling says:

    I don’t think God has to keep score. If you genuinely repent the hurtful things you have done, you will probably always remember them and the hurt they caused. If you don’t repent, you still have to live with the consequences of your actions—and sooner or later, there are always consequences. Either way, you end up keeping score on yourself.

    The problem comes when we try to keep score on others. I hated the Prodigal Son story when I was a kid, because it offended my sense of justice and fairness. But the older I get, the more I understand how rare and precious it is for someone on a hurtful path to turn their life around—and how common and unhelpful it is for the “good” son to care more about whether his brother “gets what he deserves” than about his return to a more positive way of life.

    True virtue is its own abundant reward, and it is enhanced rather than diminished when others come to share in it.

  2. Stevie says:

    I believe that God’s capacity for loving us all is so much bigger than we know. I don’t think he keeps score. He has bigger fish to fry. I think that even though he loves all his children equally, he also loves me personally, and knows my heart and my faults. Along with free will he also gives us a conscience. We keep and manage our own mistakes. And our own consequences.

  3. Sharon says:

    I have thought so much about Yvettes question, hoping I could answer in such a way as to encourage her walk on earth. Pastor Craig and Stevie, I couldn’t have said it better. I give a big AMEN to both of you.

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