This funny thing happens to me sometimes when I listen to sermons and/or just people talking about Jesus and such. At times, I find something exciting and worth diving into that really is just a sub point in the entire message. This past Saturday was one of those times. My pastor mentioned this concept of confusing grace with reward. He hurried off back to his main point (which was equally as awesome), but I was intrigued by this concept.
I think this is a common and easy thing to do, especially with us God people. Something great happens to us and we assume, and even say, that great thing came from God’s grace. What if it was just something good that happened to you? We do the same when bad things happen, thinking God must be upset with us.
There are rewards in this life because this world operates on a reward/punishment system. Not all good things that happen are because God is extra pleased with you and not all bad things happen because He is angry with you. So, I think we should look at how reward and grace are different and then you can decide which you think God operates by.
Limited by our own abilities –VS- Dependent on God’s ability
Living for reward is strictly limited by what we can achieve. If we lack the ability to be good, make the perfect choices, or do the correct actions we miss out on the fullness of the reward. This also makes reward fleeting as it only lasts as long as our ability to do those things lasts. Grace is quite different. Grace is dependent on the ability of God to keep his promise and on the ability of Christ to be pleasing enough to Him. Grace frees us from having to be able all the time and instead puts that burden the shoulders of Christ. Where reward fades away the glory of grace shines without ceasing.
“Atta, boy!” –VS- Deep undeserved love
Reward is simply a pat on the back, a gold star for our spiritual success chart, or an “Atta, boy!” Its pleasure is shallow and momentary. Reward attempts to feed the emptiness of our soul with crumbs from the King’s table. Grace is deep. It calls out to us in the midst of our brokenness. It pours out love on us when we are most unlovable. It has the power to quench the emptiness and satisfy the hunger of the famished soul. Reward leaves us hungry, our stomachs growling for the next satisfaction to come our way. Grace sets a feast before us, letting us stuff our faces until we can’t take in any more.
Result of us being enough –VS- Makes us enough
Reward comes only after being enough. We hear over and over again from our world how truly inadequate we are. Our heads are filled with beliefs that in order to make a difference we need to get ourselves together first. Reward demands that we look, act, and talk the right way before we are good enough to really be anything worth wild. Grace doesn’t work that way. Grace comes in at height of us being not enough and lavishes on us. It takes the broken, screwed up people that we are and makes them enough. Enough. Enough even to share in the favor of the Father to his Son. Enough to enjoy the riches of forgiveness, love, and acceptance. Enough to move mountains and shake worldviews. Enough to be something bigger than we ever imagined. That’s the power that grace has.
Earn to receive –VS- Favor in the midst of failure
Reward says we must do in order to get. This makes sense, right? We only get our allowance after we’ve cleaned our room, we only get love after we’ve given it to someone else, or we only get praise after accomplishing something great. That’s how reward works; we do enough, we get enough. Grace drenches us in a hurricane of favor even after our greatest failures. It comes to us in fullness even when we least deserve it. It gives us glory while we are cowards and calls us holy while we stink of dirtiness. Grace breaks all the rules, disregards all the expectations, and calls the undeserving its friend.
I believe that God is always pleased with me. I believe that He is constantly pouring the fullness of his blessing and favor over me. That means when bad things are happening to me He is just as pleased with me as when good things are happening. He doesn’t give me any more or less favor… I already have it all! Reward is so fleeting, so empty, and so very worthless in the end. I can never be enough on my own, I can never be full on my own, and that’s why I will choose grace, every time. Pick grace, my friends, and live a life unlimited by what reward can give.