Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Works and grace

"Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.  But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
 'Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.'"  Romans 4: 4-8 (NRSV).

God's grace apart from works is a major theme in Paul's letter to the Romans, and it is a hard theme for modern Christians to grasp.  Christians who live in the United States often have a hard time understanding a person's worth apart from their works or their earnings.  For example, part of the reason that we admire public figures such as sports stars and actors is because they earn a high income.  Their works gain them recognition and money, and this seems to make them worthwhile. 
I have an acquaintance who has had a long career in a profession that assists people in recovering from illness. I consider that a very worthwhile profession.  She contracted a rare disease, and is now unable to function normally or work outside the home. She must depend heavily upon her husband just to help her make it through the day. It is so hard for us, as adults, to depend completely upon someone else for our livelihood. 
A first look at this situation leaves us wondering why God would allow this to happen to a person who possesses skills and a loving attitude that our society so desperately needs.  We often feel so worthless apart from our works. Yet, in truth, her life has become a picture of exactly what God wants us to do.  He wants us to quit trying to earn our salvation and depend totally and completely upon His grace.