A bit funny, I wanted to write something cheerful, something not related to covid and the total collapse of Western civilization, and I felt the Lord nudging me towards, “the wages of sin are death.” I just laughed! What kind of Monty Python, gallows humor is that?
As if to really drive the point home, someone in a fit of rage on the intertoobz said that very thing to me, as if they were wishing death upon me. My heart kind of broke, not because of the insult, but because of the misunderstanding. Romans 6 is just a beautiful, life affirming, joyous passage, and yet somebody thinks of it as a threat??!
So let me straighten this out.
God is not an employer or a judge paying out vengeance wages according to what you deserve. It is not like that at all. In fact, we are dead to sin and alive to God. We are told, “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.”
We were dead, but now in Him we live. In fact, the second part of that sentence is, “BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our debt has been paid! Those are no longer our wages! We are celebrating the glory of new life. I suppose in modern English we would write it more like, the wages of sin WERE death, but we have been redeemed. Hallelujah!
Has anyone ever seen that awful heroin lean? You can’t escape it in the city. I can deal with just about anything, but not that. Blood, bones sticking out, I’m good, but not that. That just fills me with despair and hopelessness. It is the most horrific, zombie like march of the living dead. Those poor people trapped in addiction are experiencing the wages of sin, a kind of living death. It isn’t even about blaming them. I can blame drug traffickers, corrupt politicians, and Big Pharma, in fact I frequently do. It’s not about the blame game and who deserves what, it’s just correlation and causation in action.
The wages of sin are death. You’re either living or you’re dying. Those in the throes of addiction are clearly dying. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t pray for someone struggling with addiction….and those who love them because it is not a victimless crime. I want to see them move from death to life. With Jesus they really can.
Romans 6:21 says, “What fruit did you reap at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of those things is death.” Sin is destructive to us. We are the ones who get crushed by it. God is NOT standing by waiting to fine us with “sin wages.” In fact, He’s standing by with His hand out hoping we will chose to get out of that mess.
It is not just about addiction, there are all kinds of other sin, that is just an easy one to see because it is so graphically self destructive. All sin is destructive, it is just that some are more hidden so we can’t see them as clearly. The default condition of man apart from God is sin and death. “In Him we have our breath and being.” The more wounded and willful and disconnected from God we are, the farther we are from His life and life abundant. Jesus says in John 10:10, “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.”
In the world we are much like captives to a thief demanding his vengeance wages, a thief who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus is the opposite, He came to set the captives free and so that, “everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” He is not extracting wages, He has paid our debt!
“The wages of sin is death” is a rallying cry, a celebration, a declaration that proclaims the next part of the revelation, “BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Somewhat amusing, I set out to write an encouraging, optimistic post, and somewhere in the midst of the horrors of addiction and the general sadness of the world right now, I nearly lost it. It’s hidden there in my second paragraph however, the good news, the miraculous, transformative power of Jesus Christ. My heart broke for a complete stranger, for some random internet dude caught up in the heat of battle, all flinging little fiery darts of fury about. I kid you not, my first thought was, this poor guy so needs the Lord’s mercy and to see the beauty of Romans 6!
Our faith is very reflective. What you have received yourself is going to spill over onto others. Some people break my heart, not because of the words they say, but because of the condemnation they reveal they are walking in themselves. It doesn’t have to be like that! Jesus hated death so much, He wept, He raised a man from the dead, and He laid down His very life so we would not longer feel its sting. He is not sitting up on high wishing death upon us, He is sitting up on high wishing life into us, inviting us into His life and life abundant.
I’ve said this before, but we people of the modern world often hear the word “judgement” and think of criminal court, of being on trial as the bad guy. There is another kind of court, another kind of judgement, one where a righteous judge returns to you what was stolen and ensures you receive your full inheritance. In the modern world we would call that “civil court” I suppose, and in the Bible you can see it reflected in the tale of the persistent widow.
She doesn’t care that the world is broken and the court is corrupt, she just wants what she knows is hers. She is seeking a judgement, not as a bad guy, but as an injured party. Nearly all of us do things that are stupid and self destructive, sinful if you will, but we are also an injured party, the victims of deception and deceit, kept separated from God due to lies and misunderstandings, often many that are self inflicted.
I wish everyone knew that truth. I wish more people understood that Jesus is far more like the father of the prodigal son than a judge ready to throw the book at you. He doesn’t ask for his money back, demand sin wages be paid, he simply slays a fatted calf, throws a party, and proclaims, “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again!”