Bound by ‘Oughts’? God’s Grace Gives Freedom

You can be free from "hardening of the 'oughteries.'"

By Dudley Hall Published on April 18, 2016

Someone once told me he knew why so many Christians look so miserable. “They are all suffering from the hardening of the ‘oughteries’. They never feel they’ve done as much as they ought to have done.”

I was going to be the guest speaker at a church in central Texas one Sunday. I arrived early and waited in the foyer for someone to open the doors to the main auditorium. A lady came in and waited with me. Making conversation, I asked, “Do you regularly attend church here?” “Not as much as I ought to,” she replied sheepishly. Realizing she felt examined, I tried to relieve the tension by saying, “Well isn’t it wonderful to go to church because you want to rather than because you ought to?”

“Yeah, but I don’t want to as much as I ought to.”

What a trap the oughteries are! You can never do enough. If you pray for two hours, you ought to have prayed more, or you ought to have been more intentional. If you’ve fasted for one week, you ought to have tried two. Just think how much more would have been accomplished if you hadn’t quit so soon.

Jesus didn’t live with the oughteries. He wanted to do the will of His Father. He was so conscious of the Father’s love, He could think of nothing better than to trust Him. When Jesus was only twelve, he gave His parents a good scare because when they started for home after a temple visit, He stayed behind, discussing his Father’s business with the religious leaders. (Luke 2:41-49) He was so caught up with being there that He completely forgot about going with his family. I don’t think He stayed because He felt He “ought to.”

On another occasion (John 4:1-34), He stopped to rest by a well in Samaria while His disciples went to town for food. His rest was disturbed by a woman coming to the well to draw water. Jesus could see that her thirst was for more than physical water. He gave Himself to her so fully that when the disciples came back He was no longer hungry. “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” He told them His intimate partnership with the Father was better than eating. Even though he was “off duty,” He was energized by loving the way He was loved by His Father. He was focused on opportunities rather than oughteries.

Believers have been given His very life. We have the same privilege of being loved and sharing it when the opportunity arises. There are no interruptions to a life lived with God. He is constantly flowing His love through us and by it empowering us with a joy that is unspeakable. Gradually our desires change as we look forward to such exchanges. We get to do what we really want to do. The “oughts” are replaced by the delight of sharing the moment with God himself.

We are highly privileged to share in such heavenly dynamics. God is not measuring our performance, nor scrutinizing our motives. He is granting us the privilege of being his instruments of love. We will forget our sense of ought when we are captivated by his grace. Jesus has performed for us and has been declared RIGHTEOUS. We can do no better. Since we are righteous in him we can begin to practice what brings us the greatest satisfaction, loving as he loves.


Excerpted from Dudley’s book Grace Works. Kerygma Ventures Press, Used by permission.

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