Opinions on faith and life

Gifts For Sale?

2009-08-27

Yep, another oxymoron. Normally people know the difference between gifts and earned wages; even the IRS can figure that one out. But somehow, when it comes to the Bible, ordinary words transform before our eyes into their opposites. And nobody seems to notice.

Salvation is clearly taught as a gift in scripture (Eph. 2:8-9), and yet many try to earn all or part of it via good deeds, penance, or some other method. Why? How? Do we consider the receiving of a gift from another person to be the earning of a wage? Then on what basis does accepting a gift from God become a work or something we earn? Conversely, if scripture tells us to work or strive or make an effort, can it be talking about the gift of salvation? And if it speaks of things we did in this life, can we not conclude that it is about earned wages?

Probably the most famous verse that illustrates how easily we gloss over this important understanding is Phil. 3:12-14 (along with 2 Tim. 4:7), which many cite as being about salvation. But in addition to the works language here, we have in Acts 20:24 Paul’s own explanation of what he was striving toward: the task Jesus gave him of testifying to the gospel. And speaking of 2 Tim., verse 8 speaks of a crown that will be awarded. Are gifts awarded, or are they given? Are medals of honor given to just anyone, or do people have to earn them?

Now let’s look at some scriptures concerning judgment, because then things get a little more complicated. In Mt. 5:21ff and Mt. 12:36 Jesus talks about it, but notice that it’s in conjunction with what people do and say, not what they believe. Yet in Mt. 12:41ff He speaks of it in terms of faith or the lack thereof. And when Paul said in Rom. 6:23 that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, he contrasted wages with gifts, but described death as an earned wage. Again, in Rev. 20:11-15 we read that people are judged by what they did, yet the criterion for throwing people into the Lake of Fire is that their names were not found written in the book of life. (I’m well aware of debates on what that could mean, especially on the topic of Eternal Security, but the point is that their eternal destiny is determined by this one factor, not their deeds. Why their names are not written is a matter of great speculation, but I think the bulk of scripture points toward acceptance or rejection of Jesus as the key.)

On the happy side of judgment, we read in 1 Cor. 3:10-15 that our deeds will be tested, and even if we are found to have nothing of value in terms of earned wages, we ourselves are still saved by faith. And in case anyone objects that this passage is only about teachers, we can add Rom. 4:4-5, Rom. 5:1ff, Rom. 11:6, and 2 Cor. 5:10. But notice verse 9 there: So we make it our goal to please him....

That is the bottom line of Christian motivation. We will get rewards, and this is portrayed as a positive motivator for us. But the ultimate motivation should always be to please Him. If we have been reconciled with God through Jesus, that relationship will be exhibited in our determination to do that which is pleasing to God, with rewards being mere icing on the cake.

So let’s try to be careful when we read scripture, making sure to pay attention to the terminology so we don’t confuse that which is received freely and that which is an earned reward.

20 Comments

Lydia

Good post.

Paula Fether

Tanx! :-)

Junkster

Yes, a good post. Just because we are rewarded by God for some of our actions does not mean that everything we receive from Him is a reward for our actions. I can give my child a gift for his birthday AND pay him for mowing the yard.

That is the bottom line of Christian motivation. We will get rewards, and this is portrayed as a positive motivator for us. But the ultimate motivation should always be “to please Him”. If we have been reconciled with God through Jesus, that relationship will be exhibited in our determination to do that which is pleasing to God, with rewards being mere icing on the cake.

I believe that human nature is such that the positive benefits we receive from any action can, and even should, serve as motivators for us, even when we already have every reason to act out of altruistic and selfless motivations. God knows that when I serve Him I get not only the benefit of eternal reward but also the more immediate rewards like joy and peace and just feeling better about myself. And I think that’s perfectly ok with Him, because He made us that way. No reason I should feel any guilt for enjoying both the cake and the icing.

Paula Fether

And tanx 2u2, Junkster!

We do get some of the icing now— along with some candle wax and cardboard. But that little sample of icing can go a long way.

Anyhoo, re. "another thread somewhere", the point here would be that there is both, as you mentioned. Some argue that it’s all about rewards, others that it has nothing to do with rewards. And as is the case in so many other instances, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Junkster

The truth lies in the middle -- oh, no! The Hegelian Dialectic is among us!!

:) Just kidding. I agree with you.

Speaking of "another thread somewhere" ... our dear sister Lydia is standing up strong against sugar-coated insults, accusations, and misrepresentations. She’s doing it boldly and directly, yet with more grace than I can.

Lydia

"Speaking of “another thread somewhere” … our dear sister Lydia is standing up strong against sugar-coated insults, accusations, and misrepresentations. She’s doing it boldly and directly, yet with more grace than I can."

I hate to disappoint you but grace has gone out the window. I have never seen such skill wrapping ad hominem attacks in thick sweet syrup, whipped creme and topping with cherries and nuts. It is amazing how few see through it. I would rather be an honest shrew than a false flatterer.

It is this thinking that got Obama elected. Alinsky’s rules are alive and well. Get the people riled up on hope and change and never mind the evil details. The ones against us are evil and mean. Just keep saying that over and over and folks believe it.

(sorry off topic)

Paula Fether

Oh, don’t worry... no topic cops here. ;-P

Just a topic CZAR!! Mwahahahahaaaaa.....

I agree, Lydia’s doing a fine job, and anybody who disagrees should be grateful that I’m not there. "There is a time for everything", and there is no place for diplomacy in a cage fight. They fight dirty and we need to be blunt.

But I did think of a way to make this on topic... "gifts for sale" is exactly what the guvmint has been hawking.

Lydia

Just a topic CZAR!! Mwahahahahaaaaa…..

That would be Czarina because gender is all important, ya know. :o)

Paula Fether

Kinda reminds me of that link about women knowing their place. :-P

"I just love little kittens..."

Lydia

This one is funny, too

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLgzxk7Rd-Q&feature=related

Junkster

Lydia, I wish I could find a woman like that for my son and arrange with her father for them to get married.

Paula Fether

Lolz... where do you find this stuff?

truthseeker

Lydia, that WAS hilarious! By the way, where are you elsewhere duking it out?

Paula, keep the good posts coming!

Junskter, unfortunately, I could tell you where to find a church full of such prospects for your son.

Paula Fether

^^ HAR!!

You guyz are on a "role" tonight! (and tanx!)

Lydia

"I wish I could find a woman like that for my son and arrange with her father for them to get married."

Just think: Boring Holidays for the rest of your life. Wouldn’t you much rather he find a gal like Paula or me? It would be so much more exciting, cerebral and well...exhausting. (wink)

ts-Some quiverfull daughters?

truthseeker

Lydia, just very straight and narrow fundamentalist, ’obey and submit your will to your husband’ girls, sad to say. They definitely have been taught to dress circumspectly, look and be cheerful at all times, and cause no waves. A whole church full of them. They might as well be quiverful girls.

Lydia

Too bad. We need to raise up more Lottie Moons, Amy Carmicheals and Gladys Alywards to be bold in serving the Lord.

Junkster

Lydia, You mean to say that you and Paula aren’t like the lady in the video? I’m shocked!!

Junkster

Paula, These tough math questions I have to answer to post on your site are making my head hurt. Sometimes I have to count on my fingers AND my toes!

Paula Fether

Junkie, honey lamb, honey chile...

Doncha worry none. Ifn ya needz a ice pack fer dat dere headache, yall jis fetch one from da fridge. I don mind none.