“Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:4,5 New International Version
I have been very frustrated lately with the Social Security Department and its policies, because I have been paying into Social Security since I was 14 years old. That’s more than forty years of deposits made from each paycheck into the Social Security coffer. Now when I need to access what I have been depositing into what I was led to believe would be mine, it isn’t mine anymore! I worked for every penny placed in there thinking it was to be kept safe for my dotage! Now that doesn’t seem to be available even though I earned it all.
You can’t earn a gift, a gift is something we choose to give or receive. If it comes with strings attached it’s no longer a gift. It might be a bribe, a payoff, or something earned, but it definitely isn’t a gift! Gifts come with the goal of expressing love, appreciation, recognition of someone’s extra efforts in service to others, etc. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, some are expensive and others are not, most are seen as identifying a desire to honor another!
Take a moment to consider what was the best gift you ever received? Are there more than one that would need to be placed on a list? Who gave you the best gift you’ve ever received? There may be time periods in our lives when certain gifts have changed lives forever. There are also those gifts that can be shared between two very special people, you and your partner or you and a special friend. The smile meant just for you, insider jokes gifted to each other, and for couples those moments when there is nothing else except the One God gave to you!
One very special gift I will never forget was my first pair of cowboy boots. I was given them for my 9th birthday. And never has anyone seen a boy more excited; I had wanted a pair of boots for so very long! (I have been wearing cowboy boots ever since.) There was just one difficulty, they were too big! Now I could have told my parents or I could just live with the reality they were too big and figure something out. Since I was afraid my parents would take the boots back and I would never see another pair, I chose to stuff paper in them and live with them that way.
Because I had not trusted my parents love for me with this very special gift and believed they would take the gift away, I wasn’t able to enjoy the complete benefits of my gift. How often does this happen with our relationship with God and the attitude we assume in viewing those gifts? Do we seek to believe God’s gift of Grace is the right size to fit our lives, big enough to meet every need we have had or will have? (The past tense refers to seeing the fingerprints of God all over and through our lives.)
I treasure Joni as one of the most profound of gifts given to me by God. Joni is God’s gift to cover the areas in me that are either weak or just plain non-existent. I could never earn Joni or her love. We recognize that reality, we know we cannot earn someone else’s love. So then why doesn’t that knowledge translate into our understanding of God’s love?
Paul gives an interesting insight into who we are as humanity. He addresses “… the man who does not work”. In our culture the work ethic, as we call it, permeates every aspect of our lives causing us to see everything in life as something to be earned. We are rewarded when we perform well, receiving raises in our employment responsibility or income when we are seen as earning it. Over and over the idea that we receive is understood to come as something we have earned. The worker can claim his wage, if need be, in a court of law. There is in it no element of favor or concession. However, the one who doesn’t work has no right to anything.
This attitude spills over into our understanding of Grace, love, and even the gospel. We keep trying to figure out how we can finally earn all that God says He has for us. Unfortunately, we keep missing the free part of His message! And there are plenty of “experts” ready to instruct us in the path we need to walk in our effort to work to receive what God gives.
Once you think it through, if we could in any way accomplish the life Jesus lived here, then there was no need for Jesus to come. We, as Paul tells his readers consistently, would need to be more Pharisee than Paul was to achieve that high level of worthiness. According to Paul, he was the Pharisee of Pharisees! Yet, Paul reveals the inner turmoil that accompanies “working” for that which God gives freely. God knows what we are, has always known what we are and what we are capable of doing! Having this knowledge, rather than cause Him to turn His back, He embraces us as Jesus did all those untouchables of His time! And because Jesus was willing to embrace those declared by the church to be untouchable, it too has become our legacy.
The people were amazed at the Authority that went hand in hand with who Jesus was and what He did. They had never experienced someone living what God had promised He could give. Jesus acknowledged it was the Father living in Him and through Him. Jesus declared He did nothing on His own! Everything He did was a gift from God, His Father. Jesus’ attitude to the reality of all God offered as being a gift so angered the church leadership of His day they determined to kill Him! They had no way of knowing His death would gift to humanity their escape hatch!
Jesus had to die to answer the natural consequences caused by the separation that resulted from Adam’s and Eve’s decision made in a garden. As Adam and Eve faced their question in a garden, Jesus faced the same question in the Garden of Gethsemane–is God telling the truth? Jesus wrestled with the coming circumstances, begging His Father if there could be some other way to accomplish what had to be done. Jesus had to choose whether He would believe what God was telling Him was truth or a lie. In accepting God’s Truth a gift was prepared for us from before the foundations of this world were ever laid!
God made provision for everyone who lives in this world to be justified by their faith in what was accomplished by Jesus! In fact, Paul refers to the wicked being justified by God. In understanding this revelation, we know believing and trusting in God as the One who justifies the wicked serves to bring into our lives the Gift of Righteousness as it is in Jesus Christ! Just as Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith, so it is today.
This truth still remains, God gives the faith with which we are able to make the choice to believe, to receive the truth given to us by God through Jesus Christ!
What is becoming clear to me is everything that encompasses our relationship with God is a Gift from Him. The very fact of salvation is evidence we are completely unable to earn anything God offers! The reality is God justifies the wicked, which includes us, declaring them as righteous! Through faith everything in our lives is changed as God works to transform us into all he desires. Grace is God’s answer to the rebellion that encompasses this darkened planet, His answer to everything that plagues our lives, including ourselves!
Now the only thing that remains is the making of a decision, a decision which each individual must make. What will you do with the offer God is making, the offer He is giving? He is handing to you the Gift that is absolutely needed by humanity, the Gift of Life. All anyone has to do is accept the offer given to us all by God. So, how about you? What will you choose? Who will you choose to believe, God or the one who is the Father of Lies?
Here are some suggestions for your consideration as to whom you should choose. First, the enemy of God desires to destroy you and any that you love. Secondly, what the enemy does for you always has some sort of strings attached. Thirdly, what exactly do you need to be whole, to be complete?
Let me leave you with this thought …maybe God’s Grace is the answer to everything!
“‘So,’ you ask, ‘does the law contradict God’s promise?’ Absolutely not! Never was there written a law that could lead to resurrection and life; if there had been, then surely we could have experienced saving righteousness through keeping the law. But we haven’t. Scripture has subjected the whole world to sin’s power so that the faithful obedience of Jesus the Anointed might extend God’s promises to everyone who has faith.” Galatians 3:21-22 The Voice