My husband and I often borrow DVDs from our local library, and recently we began watching some of the classic musicals. We started with “My Fair Lady.” You may recall that this play (originally Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw) tells the story of a language professor who through training, betters the speech of a flower girl (Eliza Doolittle) to such a great extent that she can successfully masquerade as a fine lady. In the movie, Eliza’s father describes himself as being one of the “underserving poor.”
No, no, I can’t afford ’em, gov’ner. Neither could you if you was as poor as me. Not that I mean any ‘arm, mind you, but if Eliza’s getting a bit out of this, why not me too? Eh? Why not? Well, look at it my way – what am I? I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving poor, that’s what I am. Now think what that means to a man. It means that he’s up against middle-class morality for all of time. If there’s anything going, and I puts in for a bit of it, it’s always the same story: “you’re undeserving, so you can’t have it.” But my needs is as great as the most deserving widows that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same ‘usband. I don’t need less than a deserving man, I need more! I don’t eat less ‘earty than ‘e does, and I drink, oh, a lot more. I’m playin’ straight with you. I ain’t pretendin’ to be deserving. No, I’m undeserving. And I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it and that’s the truth
Of course, we find this laughable — who would admit, even be proud of the fact that he’s undeserving. Actually what he says is quite true. The underserving need help even more than the deserving, and guess what? Folks, we are all one of the undeserving in God’s eyes. Sometimes, like Alfred Doolittle, we even like our sin. We’re usually not so honest about it though. We prefer to think “we’re good people” who are “doing the best we can.” That’s what a Pastor I used to know called “stinking thinking.” The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans tells us:
“None is righteous, no not one; no on understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12
Fortunately for us, the undeserving, there is good news:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
Be honest. Admit you’re undeserving. Then rejoice in the gift God gave you and love others in the same way.