I recently stopped by our local flea market to check things out and to buy some eggs from my farmer friend. I always enjoy browsing for a few minutes and talking to various sellers. One seller told me about a small collection of nickels that he had for sale. They were inserted into one of those coin collector books. He was selling the nickels and the book for the face value of the money, about five dollars worth of nickels. Some nickels might have been a little older and have some additional value, but he was asking face value. Five dollars of nickels for five dollars. The incentive to buy them was because they were already sorted into years in the books. He told me that one lady came up to him and offered him one dollar for all of them. He questioned her logic. “Why would I sell you five dollars worth of nickels for a one dollar bill?” She didn’t quite get it. She replied, “Well, you want to sell them, don’t you?” Needless to say, she didn’t win her negotiated price nor a price in between. While other items on the table might be gotten for a negotiated price because of their estimated value, this money had government backed official value that made all negotiation rather silly. Would you sell someone a five-dollar bill for one dollar?
Now consider God’s grace. As illogical as it seems to sell five dollars worth of nickels for one dollar, God actually does something even more illogical than that. He offers something of official heavenly worth—pure righteousness, minted in heaven and stamped with the official seal of God Almighty – and he offers it to us for free. This gift of grace, getting something for nothing, is sometimes too out there for us. It doesn’t compute in our heads. So we work to bargain with God. We know his approval is worth something great, so we work hard to earn his approval. But in the end, our efforts to achieve God’s approval through our good works are even more silly than seeking to buy five dollars worth of nickels for one dollar. Why? Because our good works in view of God’s righteousness and holiness don’t even measure up to the value of a penny. We for sure will never be able to attain enough value with our works to offer God even exchange—five dollars for five dollars, my righteousness for God’s righteousness. Indeed, we’ll never get up to the point where we can offer one dollar. God knows this. He knows we’ll never be able to earn our keep, so he invites us freely. He gives us grace upon grace, five dollars upon five dollars, for nothing. And the price is not negotiable, though we often try to earn some of it. No! No negotiation! It’s free and it always will be. There’s no inflation, no increase in cost because of rise in heavenly overhead or pay raise for the angels. It’s free and it always will be! The only thing that will rise is the value of it in our hearts as we recognize the riches that God has given us, for free.
Grace—what a truly illogical and beautiful thing!