The Things We Get for Free: Looking Again at the Gospel of Grace
You have received free of charge; give free of charge. (Matthew 10:8)
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about consumerism and commodification, and as I work my way through Matthew 10, I find I can’t let go of Jesus’s words here in verse 8.
To be clear, I’m not against buying and selling (and neither, on the main, is the Bible). But I worry sometimes that we live in a culture that has commodified nearly everything — that “pay to play” is so ubiquitous that we often leave ourselves, and others, out in the cold.
In our world of price tags and paychecks doled out in exchange for time and effort, I’m not sure we possess much understanding of what we really need and just how we gain access to it.
Of course the cost of discipleship was truly high, and Jesus honored that. He was well familiar with it himself.
But the disciples had not in some way purchased Jesus’s esteem or friendship with it, much less their salvation or apostleship.
The kingdom of God, and the news of that kingdom which we refer to as “the gospel,” is not a commodity. You can’t buy it or sell it. You can only receive it.
That is the point.
The Things We Get for Free
Western culture, at least where I live, so equates finances with “success” that we easily slip into measuring ourselves by them.
If we make good money, handle it well, invest it wisely, or flash it around strategically enough, we can feel good about ourselves and others will see us as valuable people, worthy of honor. If we can keep our bills paid, and continually amass more bills as we raise our standard of living alongside our income, we will have arrived.
(This despite the fact that most of us don’t know where we’re going in the first place. But I digress.)
Within this worldview, earning is respectable. Receiving is more usually equated with shame — with “charity,” which despite being a core biblical value has become a dirty word in a commodified culture.
And yes, it’s good to earn. It’s good for our self-image and our sense of capability. It’s good to take care of others, to earn to give, and to enjoy life and explore new endeavors with our earnings. I’m not questioning that.
But in a world that so values earning, it’s easy to forget what we get for free.
It’s easy to forget that God loves us freely and has given us the gift of life without a bill attached. It’s easy to forget that air, sunshine, trees, and beauty are free.
In a world where we pay for nearly everything, it’s easy to overlook all the common graces given to us by God and by our fellow human beings.
Someone you love has smiled at you today, and you did not earn that smile. Someone trusts you, and although you endeavor not to lose that trust, you may not have exactly worked for it either.
The sky above you has been beautiful today, and if it was hidden behind clouds or rain or snow, there was a quiet and brooding beauty in that too, and in the mystery of the stars that are even now coming out as the clouds clear.
Your mind is a gift. Your body is a gift. Your emotions, your ability to connect meaningfully with other human beings young and old, is a gift.
You did not earn any of these things. You paid nothing for them.
Stewardship is called for, yes. But that is different. That is the question — Once given a gift, what will you choose to do with it?
That’s a gift too — your will. Your ability to make meaningful choices that will, in fact, affect your life and the world around you.
These are the things that are free. The things that are so easily overlooked.
Paul said in Romans 2:21 (KJV) that the great sin of humanity was that seeing God in creation, they chose not to glorify him in it, “neither were they thankful.”
And we all have so much to be thankful for.
Grace Upon Grace
If common grace means we are all given so much for free, the grace that comes with Jesus is superlative. John says,
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16, ESV)
If human friendship, companionship, and love are graces almost inexhaustible in their wonder, what does it mean to receive the friendship of God?
If we would shy away in horror at the idea of buying love, what does it mean for the Creator of the universe to share with us his body and blood and to call us his Bride?
How do we ever begin to imagine that we can earn this?
Forgiveness is free. The presence of God is free.
“Heal the sick,” Jesus told his first apostles. “Raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons.”
These are the things they got for free: the power to heal, deliver, resurrect, and restore.
Jesus’s presence in ancient Israel, Yahweh dwelling in human flesh, had not been earned. No one paid him to come, offered him a price he couldn’t refuse.
His presence among us now — Yahweh present as Holy Spirit, indwelling those who believe in him — has not been earned. No one has come up with a way to buy the Spirit or make it worth his while to shape us into a temple of living stones, becoming an eternal dwelling place for the Holy and the Pure.
You cannot commodify God, love, the kingdom.
God help us if we even try.
Like what you’re reading? Visit rachelstarrthomson.com to get a free ebook on the Lord’s Prayer and keep up with the rest of the series on the gospel of Matthew.
This is Part 141 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.
Originally published at rachelstarrthomson.com on November 14, 2018.