Grace Cancels the Debt and Pays the Bills
We are living as blessed people who are loved by unconditional and eternal love.
There is a story in 2 Kings about Elisha and the widow of another prophet. It seems that after her husband’s death, the widow and her two sons were in such debt that the creditors were threatening to take the boys as slaves. She cried out to Elisha who was willing to get involved.
All she had was a little oil but nothing to add to make a meal. Under the instruction of God, he told her to send the boys out over the village and borrow as many containers as possible. She did as she was told and began pouring the oil in the containers until all of them were full. Elisha then told her to sell the oil and pay the debt, and she and the sons could live on the rest. (See 2 Kings 4:1-7.)
Striving to be Good
The same grace that cancels the debt pays the bills for living in freedom. This seems to be a hard concept for so many. We tend to believe that it required grace to be saved initially, but our sustainability depends on our effort.
Such statements as, “Well, you can’t just do nothing,” or “God expects us to try,” or “Watch out for that greasy grace,” reveal a level of frustration felt by those astounded by mind-bending grace. Yet the apostle Paul plainly exhorts, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” (Colossians 2:6). We don’t start off in grace and then move to striving to be good.
We can’t seem to make ourselves believe that we need grace as badly as we do. We, like the widow, can’t survive unless grace does for us what we cannot do. We cannot negotiate with God. We have nothing to offer.
If we try to gain a blessing by our obedience, we discover hidden motives of the heart that betray us. Any obedience that does not originate from love is not heart obedience. That is why God negotiated for us. God the Father chooses to bless the obedient. God the Son chooses to be the obedient one. We get the blessing based on another’s obedience. Our righteous standing is a gift.
The Canceled Debt
Adam and Eve left us a debt. So, Jesus came as the last Adam and paid the debt. Israel failed to bless the world, so Jesus came as Messiah to represent Israel in blessing the world. All humans are accountable before judgment for every word, thought and deed. Jesus steps in front of us and takes the judgment. The wrath of God is poured out on sin as Jesus became sin for us. We who trust him do not have to fear a coming judgment. Our vindication is based on Christ’s finished work. Grace cancels our debt.
Grace Pays the Bills
The gift of righteousness comes with the gift of the Spirit that makes Jesus real to us and empowers us to love with his new kind of love. We are forgiven our sins so that we can be free from guilt and condemnation. We are cleansed from our shame so we can be free to enjoy God and his world. His presence displaces the fears that have tormented us for so long. And, his continuous love delights us beyond the crippling power of temptation.
We are not idle, but we are not trying to gain some blessing by what we can offer. We are living as blessed people who are loved by unconditional and eternal love. For those still fearful that grace will make us lazy, I present Jesus who was and is full of grace. He was not lazy — but he did not strive.
Going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were not lazy before sin entered. They were busy subduing the garden. We can be sure that as we are freed from the unpayable debt and sustained by the inexhaustible daily grace we will be joyfully engaged in doing the Father’s will. We mustn’t fear too much grace. It will only set us free.