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“Victim mentality” is an all-too-common method of avoiding personal accountability. It assumes that what others expect of you is unreasonable and blames their impossible demands for any lack of effort on your part.

The victim mindset causes members to stop attending services for a moving target of reasons or, if they do attend, to complain about fellow Christians the whole time. It drives the foolishness of parents who let their children “decide on their own,” because church was unduly forced upon them in their youth. Whenever life gets tough, it is tempting to blame God for being the unfair dispenser of the sad lot that has been given you.

In the Parable of the Talents, the third servant fancies himself the victim: “Lord, I knew You to be a hard man . . . and I was afraid, and went and hid Your talent in the ground.” (Matthew 25:24-25) His passive-aggressive solution—”Look, there You have what is Yours!”—essentially informs his Creator, “If you don’t like what I did, then You shouldn’t be the way You are!”

Our God does set a high standard: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) And His expectation of righteousness leaves no wiggle room: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) But playing the victim is simply to pronounce sentence upon oneself: “Cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness.” (Matthew 25:30)

What of the servants who received two and five talents each? The natural man assumes they were only industrious because the Lord had obviously given them so much more. But none of Jesus’ parables are to be calculated by worldly standards. Each servant received a lavish amount. One talent alone was nearly two years’ wages.

The perpetual victim can only see everything he has not received. But the repentant heart perceives everything he has and is as far exceeding anything he could possibly earn: “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matthew 13:12)

As with every parable, the cross is the key to the puzzle. God sent His Son to be the victim in your place. Evil men buried Him in the ground lest they have to take a good look at themselves. But when Jesus rose from that grave to which your sins took Him, the Lord showered on you every spiritual treasure you did not deserve.

He entrusts us, His servants, with wide-ranging fruits of faith to be put to wholesome kingdom labor: “But each one has his own gift from God . . . for the profit of all.” (1 Corinthians 7:7, 12:7).

He knows both your abilities and limitations, and He expects too much from no one. All He asks is for you to invest what He gives, trusting His grace alone to multiply your efforts, for it is “God who gives the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7)

No longer constantly cornered, faith acknowledges whatever others ask of you to be the personal corner of creation given you to tend and keep: “You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.” (Matthew 25:23)

The parables of Jesus are too hard to understand only when you assume they are. In truth, they are explained all over the Bible. So, too, the Scriptures give meaning to every cross you bear in life. Shake the victim mindset, repent, and embrace the marvelous grace He’s showered on you: “Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matthew 25:23)

Timothy Daub is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Hecla, South Dakota.