Could Bill Gates pay Jesus back for salvation?
I have a hard time receiving gifts without feeling like I owe the person back. I’ve gotten better over the years, but every once in awhile when people offer to pay for my coffee or the dinner we just had, I still feel as though the scale is imbalanced, and so I have this desire to balance it out, pay them back, write them a thank-you card, or generally anything that will make me feel better.
See, that’s the problem. The goal of my repayment is to fix my own feeling of imbalance, which is a weight I put on myself. But by its nature, a gift is “a thing given willingly to someone without payment.” In gift giving, the scale is removed because there is no exchange, no commerce, no bartering. Generosity is beyond scale, and so we have to remove it from the picture when giving and receiving gifts.
What is left, then? How is one to respond to a gift if there is no scale? No way to repay the person? No chance to even things out?
Before I answer that question, let’s make a big leap and expand the conversation. Zoom out from coffee to salvation. I know, big leap. But here we go.
Let’s say the gift changed from a cup of coffee to salvation. Now we’re going from a gift that’s repayable to a gift that’s arguably not repayable, even if you had twenty lifetimes to try. If someone buys you coffee, and you wanted to repay them, you can grab coffee for them the next time. You probably have $3.25. But salvation? How long would you have to work to repay that? How much is it even worth? Is there anyone on earth that could repay Jesus for what he’s gifted us with? What about Bill Gates? Could he repay Jesus easily because of his wealth? I find that an interesting question, but since this situation involves a gift, there is no scale; and since there’s no scale, then it’s impossible to balance it through monetary repayment. It’s a gift, and gifts nullify repayment.
The other day, I noticed a verse that I have never read before. That is to say, I’ve read this verse a thousand times, but for some reason, didn’t truly see it.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23
Notice two phrases: wages, and free gift. Their placement is of utmost importance. Wages are payment or compensation for what you’ve done. So, we see that the payment for sinning is death. You still get a paycheck when you sin, but when you open it up to see what you got paid for all your hard work, instead of a nice fat number in the box, it just says, “death” in bold letters. Awesome. That is something to pay attention to.
But! The wages of God is eternal life—wait, no, sorry…I messed that up. The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Many of our problems as Christians stem out of getting those two words mixed up. Did God pay you salvation or did God give you salvation? If he paid you, then you owe him something, either a timesheet showing the hours you worked, a combination of goods and services, etc. But if he gave salvation to you, how could you possibly pay him back?
And so we’re back at the same question:
How is one to respond to a gift if there is no scale? No way to repay the person? No chance to even things out?
I think the answer has something to do with this: in your heart, you feel gratitude. So you simply say, “Thank you,” and start to live in such a way that embodies that thankfulness. With as big a gift as salvation, your whole life becomes a living “thanks” and a beautiful response to something you could never repay if you tried.