“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith…” Romans 3:23-25
When I was a kid my parents, in an effort to teach my brother and I the value of hard work, responsibility, and the dollar, assigned us each certain chores to do around the house. Each chore was listed out with a dollar value next to it: unload dishwasher = $2, take out trash = $1, vacuum living room = $3.
This commission-only allowance was highly motivating as a 8-year-old who desperately wanted more football cards, a new boom box, or a cooler fanny pack. We quickly got to work, and overtime, earned our money. Capitalism in its purest form.
It’s difficult not to import this same sort of thinking to our relationship with Jesus. We are trained from a young age that you have to work hard to earn things in life. Pretty much everything in life functions this way (school, work, exercise, to name a few). Isn’t it interesting, in light of our default mode of earning our way through life, that Romans 3 tells us that the grace of God is a gift to us.
We don’t earn it! In fact, we can’t earn it. Verse 23 tells that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – that is, we start off in the greatest debt imaginable as we stand before God. It’s not just that we haven’t been good enough, it’s that we’ve rebelled from God’s standard for our lives.
This is where Christianity is the most refreshing, upside-down news we’ll ever hear. The Apostle Paul doesn’t tell us, “okay, in light of how bad your sin is, you’re going to have to try really really hard to earn your way back to God.” Instead, he tells us that our justification, our being declared not guilty and fully righteous, comes by grace, as a gift, through the redemption that was accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross.
When you come to Jesus, you don’t “earn” anything. There is no list of good deeds with a value associated with each task. Jesus did it all for you. And what is asked of us? To receive the gift! To have faith means to receive and rest on what Jesus has done on your behalf. Faith is receiving and resting.