“I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:19,21,23 New International Version
Growing up, I remember watching all those ’50s television shows with the perfect families: Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, My Three Sons, to name a few. Every week each of the families met any challenge with kindness, gentleness, and right thinking. Always with the family coming together to reveal unity under the guidance of a mom and dad who were full of wisdom. The wisdom of the parents was especially revealed when the children reached high school age.
Do you recall those days, those wondrous high school days when life for most of us was filled with fear, angst, self-consciousness, and rejection issues? Remember knowing you were so different from everyone else no one could possibly know how you felt? Honestly, I have no desire to live those days over in any way, shape, or form!
However, those were the days when I started my first paying job on a semi-fulltime basis. My first choice was to work in the dairy, but unfortunately for the first 3 months I had to work on the farm. I was not a happy camper; the last thing I wanted to do was to move irrigation pipes, and especially those in the corn fields. Then there was the little job of pitching silage. The job wasn’t really so little; it went on forever and the stench permeated clothing, shoes, hair and skin. It stunk to high heaven!
Right about now you might be asking what would have motivated me to want to work on a dairy. I’m glad you asked! I attended a boarding academy for my high school education. Part of the curriculum was a work program. So the day was made up of 4 hours working and 4 hours in school. The farm and dairy at Monterey Bay Academy were my first real paying jobs. When after those first 3 summer months working on the farm I was finally able to transfer to the dairy, I worked there through all 4 years of my high school experience.
I don’t recall what my beginning hourly wage was, but by my senior year I was making a whopping sum of $2.50 an hour! I guarantee I earned every cent of that pay for every hour I worked. My senior year was extremely challenging because I worked from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. and then had to be ready for class at 7 a.m. Many days I would go flying into Bible class making it by the “skin of my teeth”! There is no way I would have called what I earned at the dairy a gift. I worked hard, and worked long hours during the summer and over holidays throughout the year. I can still call up in my mind my first Christmas at MBA when I had to work on Christmas Day. It was the worst Christmas Day ever!
Believe me I earned every penny paid me for my services rendered to the dairy at MBA, especially during the holidays and the home leaves spent on a deserted campus with nothing to do but work. (Home leave came every 13 weeks, an extended weekend for those fortunate enough not to have to work.) I eventually became used to the routine of those days, but never did like them much. Although, I do believe the experience had a positive impact on my life!
As I noted in a previous post, we will serve either God or ourselves, there is no halfway point where we get to have some selfishness married to the selflessness of Christ. A choice has to be made concerning what is important in your life. How do you see God and where do you see God when it comes to Him being involved in your life? When it comes to the realities of life on planet Earth, we are either slaves to God and His righteousness or to the enemy and death.
Another way this has been defined by God through Paul is in connecting our lives to the reality of wages and gifts. When we work we earn our wages, they are ours by the very fact that we did something to make them ours. Wages belong to us because we earned them, it’s not rocket science. Just as wages belong to the laborer because he earned them, gifts are exactly the polar opposite of wages! A gift cannot be earned. If something needs to be done in order to “deserve” the gift, it isn’t a gift! If the gift comes with strings attached, it isn’t a gift! That isn’t rocket science either, but it’s surprising how many people have confused these two over and over.
Maybe it’s not so confusing when we consider the damage done over the millennium to our understanding of God: who He is, what He is about, why He does what He does, how He determines exactly what is important, and ultimately His passion for us in ways we will never understand. And all of this is ours through God’s Grace pouring over and into us the gift that is His Grace. It is a gift that is ours through Jesus Christ, the gift that is eternal and can only be given as a gift. There is no way to earn eternal life; we can earn the death that is sin, but the life that God gives is a Gift and must be accepted as such.
The only one who benefits from anyone trying to earn their way into the gift of eternal life is the enemy of God and of us all! It will only cause us confusion, frustration, and lead to misunderstanding who God is and what He wants, the things which motivate Him! And when all is said and done, what would you really rather have, a Gift from your Creator or try to earn something that isn’t possible to earn?
Just from the perspective of God’s love His Gift makes so much more sense than any argument compelling our earning that which God gives through His Grace and the life, death, and resurrected life of Jesus Christ. All of which are given to us as Gifts! Enjoy the wonder of a love that doesn’t make sense, but I hope to never live without it cocooning me in Him! How about you?
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!” Ephesians 2:7-9 The Message