“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but debt….

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness”  Romans 4: 4-5

When I receive, which I do, we all do; on what basis do I (we) measure that value of what I have received?  Do I count what I’ve received as what is my due for the efforts that I have made, the things I have accomplished?  Or….do I count what I’ve received as a gift, as a token gesture dished out by some other party based, not on my deserving, but on their generosity?

Wages, adequate wages, disparity of wages, inequality of wages, deficiency of wages are all topics of conversation around the globe in our present time.  And I will grant that many of those discussions are of a necessary nature; but this is not the forum in which I want to elaborate on any or all of those in detail.

No; while there is a sense of human justice and fairness which those discussions need to explore we can run afoul of that mindset if we try to apply it outside the realm of human focused vocations.  That is to say; should we come to a way of thinking where our salvation is owed to us, is based on our good works; is something that God better not hold back.  Should we succumb to that sort of thinking; we do so at great personal, spiritual and eternal peril.

Religion has, for almost its entire existence, been about the idea of doing.  Mind you I am not saying that this is correct, but it is how humankind has looked at it.  In pagan religions I do, that is I hold specific rites, I sacrifice, even to the extent of human beings, even to the extent of some in my own family, and then these god’s may look down upon me and give me some response.  But I must do first.

It was not just pagan religions, the early Christian Church was struggling with doing.  Specifically in this case, the doing was about keeping the rites and requirements of the Jewish traditions; for example, should all Christians be circumcised, should all Christians strictly follow the Jewish laws and commandments.  Paul is addressing those questions as to what should be our expectations  from God based on our actions, on our behavior.  If we feel that we receive from God because of our own good behavior, Paul argues, then we’re receiving due wages and grace is of no consequence.  If that were the case; Paul also argues, then the law would have been sufficient for salvation.  But as Paul goes on to argue, since no one is able to faithfully and perfectly follow the law; then what we receive is a free gift from God by Grace and our imperfect works are nothing for which we can boast or rely on.

And Dear Sisters and Brothers, it was not just the early church that had such struggles.  Sadly, there are many struggles around this same question today.  There are many Christian denominations where specifically this has to be done or this can’t be done and if those can’s and can’ts, the thou shalt and shalt nots are accomplished then salvation is assured.  There is another similar but different message out there that states that who we are and thus what we do is basically good.  We are fundamentally good people and when we do wrong it is only due to circumstances outside of our control.  Thus, we are owed salvation because of our basic goodness. I believe these messages to be the outcomes of targeted attacks by the prince of this world; on God’s message to us.  These are messages filled with peril and ultimately doom.

But this is not meant to be a downer message.  Some see this truth preached as messages of guilt and defeat.  If you are feeling this, please read on for the truth of the message is joy, confidence, liberation and love.  For Our Heavenly Father tells us that He will freely give us what we are incapable of being able to earn.  Our Creator God tells us that we have no reason or right to feel guilty when our sins have been washed clean; completely forgiven, completely forgotten.  Dear Sisters and Brothers it is not about our doing, which is inadequate, but about His Being which is completely, perfectly adequate.

How can we be so sure of this; Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  Think about it, Christ did not take the works of good people upon His shoulders.  Christ did become righteous as He was on the cross.  No, Christ became sin, taking the sins of you and I upon Himself.  His sacrifice, His Grace, allowed for us to be counted as righteous.  The same way Abraham was counted as righteous after God called upon him; not before.

Now do watch out for this.  Some would conclude: “Then what I do, doesn’t matter.  I can continue to hurt, destroy, do evil and sin willfully and I’m forgiven.”  Well it goes back, not to doing, but to being.  If we are in Christ; if we are being what God has created us to be; then love is our guide. Love is our commandment.  Love first for God and then love for each other as ourselves.

Bottom line, we are sinners.  The wages of sin is death.  But Grace trumps that equation where we’re concerned.  Because death was paid; for us and not by us.  Jesus Christ paid our price by His Graceful Gift.  Let it be that we are willing to receive that gift.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, ever since creation itself, ever since the garden, You have generously, mercifully, patiently, graciously poured out Your Gifts upon us.  Forgive us Dear Father whether we have failed to receive those gifts or looked upon them as payment due us instead of gifts freely given.  Help us Most Merciful Father to conquer that part of ourselves who would rather try to work our way to righteousness than accept the blessings You have supplied.  That in our humble recognition and praise to You; we would rise higher than our own works could ever take us we proclaim.  In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray.  Amen