Today's Devotional Thought: A Debt You Cannot Repay
Romans 6:10, "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God."
John Zahl tells of a time he felt indebted by another's generosity. He writes, "A few years ago, a friend and the owner of a local high-end department store gave me a very generous gift certificate. When I went to use the gift certificate he met me at the store, and walked with me as I selected a sports coat, a dress shirt, and a pair of shoes. I made sure to look at each of the price tags (on the sly) so I could overshoot the gift certificate enough and put some cash back into the store's register, thereby showing my gratitude for his generosity.
"When I got to the register, I put my wallet on the counter and got out my credit card, but he placed the gift certificate in front of me and said, "Well, it looks like you've only spent a little more than half of your credit with us." I was shocked. In that moment I realized he had only been charging me half of the ticket price, which meant that I was still in his debt.
"In a few weeks I returned to the store with my wife determined to show my appreciation by overspending the gift card. So this time we approached the counter as a unified front, and with a huge armload of clothing and accessories. I handed our friend the gift certificate, and got my wallet out. He took the gift certificate in hand and started entering the purchases into the register.
"Finally, when the bags were full, he turned to us and said, "You're not going to believe this, but I've rung everything up, and the total comes to exactly zero." We started protesting: "That can't be right. The total should be well above what was left of our store credit."
"Then he said, "I don't think you understand how this gift certificate works. No matter what you throw at it, the total will always read zero." We finally understood his arrangement. In our attempts to buy our way out of the debt, we had completely missed the value of the gift, which this generous man took such pleasure in bestowing upon us." [Adapted from John Zahl, "A Gift (Certificate) That Never Expires," Mockingbird blog (2-23-15)]
Paul tells us that, "Jesus died to sin once for all." In the Jewish system of forgiveness a continual offering for sin had to be made through regular animal sacrifices. In this system the sinner had to pay for their sins by regular sacrifice. You sin, you pay. You sin, you pay. You belly up to the register of God’s forgiveness and you better have your wallet ready.
"Jesus died to sin once for all." The gift God gives us through Jesus--His incalculably costly grace--paid for all our sins: past, present and future. No matter what we bring, or how much we bring, to the register of God's justice, when we show our gift certificate of Christ's sacrifice, the total always equals zero.
John learned two things: first, that he could not repay the generosity of his benefactor. We sometimes think we must earn the generosity of God's forgiveness. We keep a running tally. If our good deeds outweigh the bad, we have earned forgiveness. Not so. A gift paid for is no gift at all. It is only an insult to the Giver. We can never repay forgiveness, only receive it.
Secondly, John learned that by trying to bring enough items to the register he was demanding greater generosity from the giver. That may have shown the giver to be more generous, but it also cost the giver more than was needed. It showed a lack of gratitude (even though John was doing so to show his gratitude). This is Paul's point in the beginning of the chapter, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!" (Romans 6:1). To show our gratitude to the Giver we use the gift as little as possible.
Receive the gift of the one who died to sin once for all. Praise God for His generosity! Thank God for His grace!!
Prayer: Our Father, we are amazed and awed by Your unmerited generosity. We accept your grace as humble, poor in spirit, children. We have nothing to give in return but our gratitude shown by our determination to use the gift as little as possible. Holy Spirit, rise up in us and enable us to live such lives of gratitude. We are forever in your debt Jesus. It's in your name we pray, amen.