9 April 2016

Romans 4:1-8

“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.” (vv. 4-5)

Psalm: Psalm 68:24-35


Wages are interesting. I've been lucky enough to have always enjoyed the jobs I've had. But I reflect on pay and even here my reflections are largely positive. I remember working as a paper boy. We got paid for each paper we delivered. The shop owner passed on to us what he charged each customer for the delivery. He made his money from the sale of the papers. All fair and square. One winter the weather was exceptionally hard. Snow covered the ground and the shop owner delivered the papers himself. We couldn't get out on our bikes. Then at the end of the week we still got paid! I've never forgotten that. It made me all the more grateful. I think all of us worked harder after that. We really felt we were in it together and valued.

A few years later, when my dad was disabled with multiple sclerosis, he worked keeping cliff-top coastal paths clear of vegetation. Most days he got to work pushing his bike and using it to lean on. Some days just getting there exhausted him. His boss knew that on those days he couldn't really work: "Sit in your hut, Ted. We'll say you're cleaning your tools." Dad still got paid. It gave him more than money. It kept his dignity. I've never been able to thank that boss, but I want to say, "God bless him."

Paul uses wages as an illustration more than once in his letters. People understand that. We understand that. What catches us here is the comparison. If you work you expect wages. If you don't, then in the cut and thrust of the world usually, you get nothing. Perhaps my dad and I were just lucky? But Paul would say, 'in the world, yes, but God has other values'. It seems that to be made righteous, to be saved, whatever language you like to use, to receive the totally awe-inspiring, completely wonderful, boundless love of God requires no work at all. It's priceless, its ours - now. Just trust. It is so!

To Ponder

  • Have you ever received something for nothing? If so, how did it make you feel? If not, how would you feel if it happened?
  • If God really loves us all without us doing a thing to earn it, how does that make you feel? How do you want to respond?
  • How does being loved by God make you behave differently to others, to those who pay you, to those you pay?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.