[first published in the monthly congregational Notes for November, 2019.]
In recent years we have learned of companies paying their employees less than the appropriate award requires. Some have self-reported when audits have disclosed the issue and voluntarily promised to make good the difference, while others cases have only come to light as a result of complaints and adjudication by courts. We are rightly offended when someone is not paid properly and it goes against our Aussie sense of fair play. Put bluntly, deliberate underpayment is theft. It is ‘taking without paying’ (Deut 24:14-15; Jer 22:13). We might accept an honest mistake but we still expect the wages deficit to be made right. Fair is fair. But fairness works two ways! To be consistent we must also expect that overpaid wages should be returned as well.
Now, let us extend the matter a little bit. Because God is the Creator of all, every one of us lives in His world. The life we have has ultimately come from Him and all we enjoy and use in the world is His. By any colloquial measure (speaking reverently), He is the Boss whether we acknowledge Him or not. All are accountable to Him and owe Him honour and obedience in return for all He lets us use. To do otherwise is to ‘take without paying’. And, as Genesis makes clear, we all live under what we might call the “Human Life and Worship Award” established with Adam and Eve in Eden.
The terms of that award are simple and govern the whole of human existence. They are not hidden away in obscure fine print but written openly upon all human hearts and more clearly expanded in the Bible through the Ten Commandments, the words of Moses, the prophets and apostles and of course Jesus. In essence the terms are this: Obey Me and you will live under My blessing; disobey and you will live under My curse. Because God is absolutely Good, they are perfectly Good terms and because God is faithful and just to all He proposes, He will follow the terms of that award to the letter. Sadly, Adam did not care, and disobediently preferred his own terms.
In the enjoyment of the good life here in Australia, award clauses such as “the wages of sin is death,” or “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 6:23a; 3:23) or “the soul that sins shall die,” (Ezek 18:4) can seem remote and even irrelevant, but our consciences will tell us otherwise if we listen honestly. And when the sobering truth of those words sinks in it can be an overwhelmingly terrifying thing. Adam tried to hide from God because of it, as have many since, but this is hopeless as God Himself said through Jeremiah: “Can anyone hide himself in secret places so I shall not see him?” … “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD. (Jer 23:24). And it would be a terrifying thing forever if it were not for the wonderful Grace of God.
Under that Grace, God is able and without compromise, to withhold the wages of sin so long as someone authorized will take responsibility for receiving them instead. This is our only hope, but where shall we find anyone who will bear so great a burden as our sin’s wages? Mercifully there is Someone Else!—Jesus, who by the cross agreed to take on Himself the wages due for all the sins of all who come to Him in real repentance and plead for mercy. Truly this is Amazing Grace and a sweet sound!
And the wonder does not stop there! In Jesus we have One who did live in full and perfect obedience under the Human Life and Worship Award! By His obedience He earned the blessings Adam forfeited. He earned the wages of Life. And the same grace whereby He take the wages of our sin allows Him to impute to us the wages of a perfect life in return. Dear reader will you not marvel at such Love, and Come?