Friday, May 30, 2008

In the red (grace mentality vs. works mentality)

“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth,

then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:

go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.

Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”

Proverbs 6:1-5


This verse speaks about a pledge made between people. It pleads for urgency in resolving this pledge; in paying it off, that one might be free from the bondage of the debt. We read verses that say “save yourself”, “hasten” and “plead urgently”; it says that “you are snared in the words of your mouth,” It uses all of this intense rhetoric but gives no reason as to why this kind of debt would be a bad thing.

Verse 5 even likens us to an animal in the hands of a hunter. There is a sense of the immediacy of death in being indebted to someone.

Being indebted to someone means that we are subject to their desires. We are no longer free to follow God. They make our decisions for us. This is dangerous because they are not God. They are not wise. They are not righteous.

It doesn’t say it here in the passage but I think one implication of being free from a human debt is that we should rather be indebted to Christ.

If the epicenter of our worldview is ourselves than salvation becomes about how much we have. It becomes a works based mentality where our efforts have allowed us to gain some ground with God. Grounds to be able to say “no” when what we thing that what He is asking of us is too difficult or too large. Because salvation becomes about what we have done and no longer about what He has done we now somehow have rights.

But the truth is that we have a great debt to pay. Salvation has been given to us as a free gift. Most evangelicals would affirm this idea with a decided head nod and an “amen, praise the Lord“.

But do they really get it? Do we really get it? Do I really get it?

If Christ has imputed His righteousness on me freely than I truly have a great debt to pay. There can’t be anything that I have any right to say ”no” to. If I truly understand the gravity of His sacrifice than “no” is not an option. We can’t just obey Him on the small and easy things like being kind to our neighbors or serving on teams where we feel accepted and loved. Or even on the bigger more easily avoided sins like shoplifting and murder. I’m not really even talking about not committing sins. Because the opposite of sinning is not not sinning. It is in fact doing righteous things. Things of eternal worth. Hard calls like giving up our prized idols in order to feed the hungry or clothe the poor. Giving up our pride and self glorification in order to make much of Jesus.


Recently a friend of mine was offered to have a free baby sitter. But upon contemplating it he couldn’t conceive of receiving that service for free lest he get a late night call asking for his help in buying a car. All right. I know that this is an exaggeration but the principle is the same. If he didn’t do or give something to earn that service than she could have asked for anything.

So it is with God’s grace. If we had any part in our salvation; if our own actions somehow earned us some merit than we would have some ground to stand on in saying “no” to God’s calls. But as it stands we have none. Since our salvation is completely based on faith in God’s grace as a free gift; nothing earned than He can ask for anything and we have no right to say no. Yet we still act like we don’t have to. Like we are somehow a citizen of heaven who has paid our taxes which earns us some right to say no to the governing authority. But His Lordship is supreme and His grace is not only sufficient but the only thing necessary for our salvation. And thus we must obey. There is no thing too large for Him to ask for. We owe him our lives.

                “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ                 Jesus our Lord.”

                Romans 6:23

And being indebted to Christ is not the same as being indebted to people. He is righteous. He is wise. He does love us. He does want the best for us. He can deliver and will deliver on His promises. The more we get this part of the Gospel the more God will be glorified and the more joy we will have when we can free from serving God’s created things and have the freedom to serve the only Uncreated one. When it comes to Christ we are always in the red. We can never give enough to pay our debt back. But praise God that through His grace he has paid that debt for us.


I am a great sinner and you are a great savior. Thank you for reconciling me to yourself. Help me to feel the weight of your sacrifice daily that I might live as one indebted to a righteous King. I gladly place my life in your hands. Ask what you will God. And I pray that you will continually work on my heart as well as my wife’s that we might say yes rather than no.

In Jesus name, amen.