The Wage or the Gift?

Article was written by Pastor Rod Schorr

How staggering those words we read in Roman 6:23; one of the most frequently quoted verses in the Bible. Have you taken a serious look at it? Well, let's do so now: 

"For the wages of sin is death, but...."; and, by the way, can there be found in all the world a negative conjunction more enormous,  more pivotal than this one? "...but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  Rom 6: 23

Here is the offer of hope and despair, heaven and hell, life and death all in the very same breath! 

So, which will it be? The wage? Or the gift? How amazing the sheer numbers that keep getting this wrong! Let's look at the 'wages' first. 

It does read rather odd, don't you think? I mean, we were surely expecting an expression more fitting: like "punishment", or "cost" or even "tragic consequences". But no! Sin comes with "wages", and there is nothing random about the choice of that word. It is loaded with meaning! 

You see, whenever we decide to plunge into sin, we keep telling ourselves that it's a liberty to do so: "I'm doing my bidding. This is what I've chosen to do. I am just exercising my liberty."

But—my goodness!—how that word "wages" destroys all of that!  A person with a 'wage' doesn't do his own bidding! He does another person's bidding; that's why the wage! And the word 'wage' doesn't imply 'liberty' either; it implies 'labor' in fact;  living at the dictate of another! 

And look, by the way, at just what the 'wage' is! "For the wages of sin is death...". ' Wow! Now here is a 'payday' that no one looks forward to! Who wants to work for a 'wage' like that? Good question! But people do! In fact, most people do.

That one little word—"wage"— perfectly captures the dilemma of Man, living under the mastery of sin! 

Sin has a "paymaster". He pays a gruesome wage. His name is Satan. He is the Enemy of your soul. The world calls this 'myth'. They think it "preposterous", "primitive", "unsophisticated".  But Jesus spoke about Satan 18 times, and never metaphorically! Sorry, world, but I'll listen to Him! 

No! This paymaster is real, dear ones, and when you let yourself be mastered by sin, you labor, dear reader. You labor for him. You labor to please every impulse and temptation. You labor to justify and excuse your behavior. You labor to stifle the naggings of conscience; labor to clean up the mess; and to mend all the wreckage that is left in its wake. Oh, make no mistake about it, dear ones: sin has a paymaster, you labor for him and his payday is coming! What a chilling prospect: "the wages of sin is death...". 

"...but..." There it is! Isn't it marvelous! Oh what an eternity hinges on that word!—"but...the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  

How could anyone possibly balk at this choice? Surely you're not still pondering it yourself—this life-or-death choice between the wage and the gift! God's marvelous Book just comes out and tells you: "Stop laboring for the 'wage', and take my free Gift!"  Who in their right mind would do anything else? 

One year as I was driving up the beautiful 395 on my way to the Sierras, my truck broke down just south of Lone Pine. It wasn't anything serious, just something I had to crawl under the truck for—can't remember what—but when I got it corrected and had crawled back out, I suddenly noticed that I was at a crossroad! Right there in front of me was a sign that read: "SR 136: Death Valley, 97 miles."  

For a moment,  I just stood there before getting into the truck and considered the idea of going that way! Why not, after all? I was totally free. I'd never been there before. It sounded exotic. My curiosity was certainly nudging me that way. 

But two things tipped the scales for me that day.  The first thing was overwhelming enough:

It was August. There on Highway 395 at 4,000 feet the temperature was already blazing its way through triple digits. How bad would it be at almost 300 feet below sea level? 

But the clincher was the map itself. Just take one look at a map of Death Valley on a hot August day and see if the place-names invite you: Stovepipe Wells, Blackwater Spring, Jackass Spring, Darwin (ooh! What on earth is Darwin?). I could head that way in the middle of August. I was perfectly free to do so! 

Or...I could just keep climbin'! Up to the Sierras where the names are so much more inviting: Pine Creek, Golden Trout Lake, Hutchinson Meadow, Marmot Lake, Glacier Divide.   

Of course, it didn't take two seconds for me to decide. I looked off to the west at those beautiful rugged Eastern Sierras with snow still capping the higher peaks, and creeks and lakes tucked into every crease, and headed that way, and didn't look back. I'm not stupid, after all.  

Listen dear reader, neither are you! God has given you a wonderful map. It's called the Bible and it makes perfectly clear the choice we must make: the choice between the wage and the gift—between your old life under the mastery of sin and a new life of hope and forgiveness in Christ—is like Death Valley and a Sierra meadow! So which will it be? The wage...or the gift?

I'm so glad I get to worship with you each week. 

See you Sunday!                                   RAS

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