Imagine the scene. A five year old is at an elaborate Birthday party thrown for him by his loving parents attended by his closest friends and loving family. His mom comes over with a giant beautifully wrapped present with a giant bow on it and hands it over to the big eyed child with a flourish. After a rousing round of Happy Birthday, complete with the child looking and smelling like a monkey (is that only my kids, sorry) he opens the present to find the greatest gift he could ever hope for, insert imagined gift here — mine was the Millennium Falcon. The gift he has always dreamed of and never thought could happen. As he weeps with joy and hugs mommy in happiness, mommy smiles happily and says,”That will be $100,000 and it will be accumulating interest as you are unable to pay”. Wait, what??? That makes no sense right. It is a gift and a gift is free. Who would ever expect a five year old, someone so immature and helpless to pay a huge impossible amount for a gift? What sort of crazy messes up parent would place such a burden on a child?
You never pay for a gift! It is free or it is not a gift. The same is true with grace, you know, for it is by GRACE we have been saved not by works.
Applying the simple birthday example to salvation and grace, in truth before we are saved we are in a even more helpless position than that five year old at a birthday party. The Bible says that we are dead in in our sins and trespasses and someone dead can do nothing to save themselves or pay off a debt accumulated in life. A lifetime of sins, both those we consider big and those we consider little has convicted us with a great guilt that requires punishment. God being perfectly just, cannot just let all those sins go unpunished or He would not be perfectly just. A good judge does not let murderers out of jail just because He feels like it. In truth God’s position therefore is so much greater than a loving parent giving a gift and the gift itself, Jesus on the Cross being punished for our sins so that we do not have to be punished makes every gift ever given, even the Millennium Falcon, look puny and insignificant. A five year old can not even conceive in his limited mind what $100,000 even means nor the idea of interest, much less pay off that debt. Man, so puny and finite compared to the creator, is also unable to fully comprehend the cost involved to set us free and is unable to ever pay off the debt that was incurred or repay the price that was given to set us free, Jesus. It is only grace can set us free. The truth is that the debt is so great that it can only be wiped away by the debt holder, God, giving it away freely.
As humans we try our hardest to take what is free to us, salvation through Jesus and pay for it through our hard work, our guilt or other manifestations of our self. Whether we call it penance, works, confession, baptism or any human act we do in order to work for our salvation, anything we do to try to pay God for what He already freely gave attempts to change the nature of grace from a gift to burden. What is more, Jesus already paid for the gift in full with His blood on the Cross and His very life. Can we ever conceivably pay any amount similar to what God incarnate paid? Not a chance! It also takes away from appreciation of the giver if you try to pay for the gift.
God’s grace is a simple and pure gift of eternal life to those who believe on Jesus. It is totally free with no strings attached. We can’t pay for it and should never try. Grace is free…or it is not grace.