Every two weeks, a phenomena happens which isn't too uncommon for much of working society - we get a paycheck. For some of us, this occurs on the Friday of that week, for others it may be a little earlier. Either way, the expected sum of money is made available to you because you completed your tasks the previous pay period. As a street sweeper, you drove your street sweeper faithfully, ensuring the local streets were free of rubble and dirt along the roadway. As a nurse, you tended to some sickly individuals who needed pain controlled, infections cured, and broken parts mended. As a music instructor, you tuned instruments, polished brass, and listened to many an aspiring artist make attempts at getting those notes played correctly. As a mother, although you don't realize the actual paycheck, you changed many a dirty diaper, endured hours without sleep, and then put together piles of laundry into separated stacks of neatly folded clothes. All of us have some "duties" we perform in this thing we refer to as our daily grind. In the end, we almost live for "payday". It is like this one rewarding moment in the week when we see what it is we are rewarded for what it is we have accomplished. Not all of life is about rewards for our own accomplishments, though. When it comes to this thing known as salvation, our own accomplishments won't bring us the reward we are hoping for!
Money paid to workers isn’t a gift. It is something they earn by working. But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him. In the Scriptures David talks about the blessings that come to people who are acceptable to God, even though they don’t do anything to deserve these blessings. David says, “God blesses people whose sins are forgiven and whose evil deeds are forgotten. The Lord blesses people whose sins are erased from his book.” (Romans 4:4-8 CEV)
Money paid to workers is not a gift - it is earned by the labor they perform. To think our paycheck is a "gift" is kind of a misconception (although there are some "employees" who may not exactly earn their paychecks). For the most part we come to work, engage in some activity which is considered our "job" and then we end it at some part of the day called "quitting time". In the course of the week, we do this a set number of times - called a work week. In the course of the pay period, we do this over and over again until all our scheduled shifts are fulfilled. What we get at the end is "earned wages" - not a gift. Perhaps we even get a "bonus" for having gone above and beyond our assigned "duties" or expected "performance". This is like gravy on the potatoes! We did well, so our reward is a little larger in that pay period. When it comes to our salvation, we neither possess the skill, faithfulness, or "performance level" which can earn us the reward of salvation, let alone any "bonus"!
In the United States, there is this idea of having a job - while other countries may rely upon the kind of system of "picking" a worker each day to fulfill the duties which need to be done that day. In some sections of my neighborhood, there are people who are kind of like "migrant workers" - they don't hold full-time jobs, but stand on the street corners each morning in their neighborhood waiting for trucks to pull up and offer them employment for the day. They are called "day laborers". They do an honest day's work for a day's pay, but they cannot count on returning to that same employer day after day. It may be a job for a few days, but it isn't consistent or reliable work. This is kind of like what it would be like for us to somehow think we can live righteous lives apart from the grace of God. We might want to work every day, but we cannot count on the work being there when we need it the most! Grace is a gift - something we can count on as long as we put our faith and trust in the one who provides the gift.
Those day laborers all disappear after about 9 a.m. Some will not have been picked to work that day. This means their family will not have the day's income to add to their family budget. If this goes on for several days in a row, their means of providing for their families will be severely impacted. Relying upon our own abilities to accomplish "good stuff" in our lives is kind of like this - at best it is kind of unreliable. Sometimes we do well; at others, we kind of suffer lean times. What the day laborer has in common with us is his or her need. The person on that corner each morning has a need - to provide for some basic things he or his family needs. When we stand in need in our lives, we are hopeful those needs will be met by some means - some within our control, others clearly outside of it. When we get into a place of confusion over which of those are within our control and which are outside of it, we get into this system of thinking we can be good and gain righteousness.
Truth be told, our goodness falls far shy of the goodness God works into our lives when he weaves his grace into the very fibers of our being. The day laborer desires to work - he puts himself out there. The thing I see there is that he makes himself available to the one who will hire him for the work. He is patient in his stance, but nonetheless, he is right where he needs to be in order to make the connection with the one who has the work for him. We "put ourselves in the place" where God can meet with us. We are taken to the place where we need to be in order to be rewarded at the end of the day. We don't get there on our own - we are taken there by God himself. Just sayin!