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Wages and Gifts
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Death is inevitable for all of us. That is the essence of what St. Paul is saying. Even when we know it is coming, it surprises us when it comes. As much as we may try to prepare ourselves for it, we are never really adequately prepared. That’s because death is unnatural to us. We weren’t created to die. When God created Adam and placed Him in the Garden of Eden, and then formed Eve from Adam’s rib, they were in a state of perfection. They should have lived forever. They knew God as fully as human beings can know Him. But they gave in to temptation, and they fell into sin, wanting to be like God. They wanted to be the Creator rather than the creature, but that could never be. And once they had fallen into sin, they could not go back.
And now, death is inevitable for all of us. Generations and centuries have changed none of this. When we enter into that realm of sin and its outcome of death, we are entering into something so profound that we human creatures just don’t have the mental resources to deal with it. And we never really will because, as the apostle says, “The wages of sin is death…” Wages are things we earn. None of us wants to think we have earned death. We would much rather think that we have done something useful with our lives that would earn an outcome other than death. But that is never the case.
To our great blessing, that is not all Paul has to say to us. For as true as it is that the “wages of sin is death,” so it is equally true that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The answer to death as “the wages of sin” is a gift that comes from God. That gift is life where there should be no life; life in the midst of death itself. For God’s answer to our death, a death for which we have no answer, no solution, is the death of another—the death of his own dear Son! This same apostle Paul writes elsewhere, “God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
God is about life; He always has been. And though sin will continue to result in death, He doesn’t want that to be the final word written about any of us. He wants to spare us from the wrath we deserve. That is why He poured it all out on his Son. That is why, again, St. Paul says of God, “He made [Christ], who knew no sin, to be sin for us…” Everything that sin is and everything that sin does was laid on Christ’s shoulders. And He bore them all to the death of the cross, enduring the judgment and punishment of God the Father, for the sins of the whole world; for yours, for mine, for Melba’s. And when, three days later, Christ rose from death, it was to assure us that all He had done was not only true, but sure and certain. Eternal life had been won, and now it was available to all as a gift.
And that is where our hope must rest. We have no answers for these things, but God does. This world, try as it might, will never find a way to overcome death, because death is the wages of sin. But God Himself has eternally overcome death. He has done so through His Son, Jesus Christ. And He offers that to us as a gift, not something we can earn, but something we can only receive, through faith in Jesus Christ. If we would find comfort, we will find it there: in the death and resurrection of Jesus. If we desire peace and rest for Heart, mind, and soul, we will receive it from those hands that still show the marks of the nails that will remind us of what that peace and rest cost Him, but which He will now freely and lovingly give us. For, as St. Paul finally says, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your Heats and kinds through Christ Jesus.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.