When you live a life in ministry, wages are a subject you simply become accustomed to dealing with. No one I know went into ministry for the money; unless of course they took a vow of poverty! But I am not talking about that type of wage. I am talking about something more personal than a paycheck and more fragile than a missionaries bank account.
This week I have found myself wrestling with the wages of sin and the consequence my sin has on my life, the life of those around me and ultimately on Jesus. Perhaps it is because over Easter week I saw about ten different representations of Jesus being crucified and realized my sin was at the heart of every whip falling across his back, every thorn thrust into his skull and every nail that pierced his body. What he endured was what I deserved.
A wage is something earned. It is our deserved payment for a job or task completed. Scripture defines the wages of our sin as “death” in Romans 6:23. I know all the theological arguments and discussions of salvation, atonement and sanctification. Ultimately I come back to the fact that the goodness of God is the only rescue for the wages of my sin.
When you spend twenty-three years in ministry as I have, you begin to understand a few of the principles about your own sin. You realize many of the major sins we so often speak about in church are not the gritty reality of your daily life. For all the people in ministry who fall to adultery, there are thousands of more ministers who are faithful to their spouse, we just don’t hear about them very often. For every mega-church pastor or leader caught in a financial scandal, there are thousands of pastors and leaders willing to live humble, simple lives on the financial edge.
Sin is no less of an issue just because it may not be on a grand stage or large-scale. Shortly after Paul writes of the wages of sin, he writes about the facts that sin “seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment” produced in him a desire to sin. In other words, because I know it is wrong it gains a level of attraction. And Paul uses the sin of coveting as an example. Why? Why not one of the biggies? Why not murder, adultery or stealing? Because Paul knows a simple truth that has plagued me all week.
When push comes to shove, most of us are not tempted to the maximum extreme. Most of us aren’t face daily with actually killing someone. Most of us aren’t faced daily with literally getting naked with someone and having an affair. Most of us aren’t daily tempted to shoplift what we can’t afford.
Daily, however, we are tempted with the thoughts of sin that keeps us from being what we are called to be. There are very few people in our society who, maybe not even being followers of Christ, condone murder, adultery or stealing. Even pagans don’t buy into the idea those are noble qualities. How many people do you know who are not followers of Christ genuinely believe adultery is acceptable? They may not have a large burst of outrage over it, but they very rarely line up to give approval. But when we speak of coveting what is the response of the average person? A shrug of the shoulders and a yawn, perhaps.
But for followers of Christ, is there a point where we become so comfortable with our “small sin” that we drift from our heartbeat of seeking to follow Christ? Are we so comfortable that we no longer acknowledge that the “small sins” carry “large wages?”
The sin that “so easily entangles us” referred to in Hebrews 12 for most of us is not a big deal for the non-believer. But for the Christian, that same sin is the force that nailed Jesus to the cross. He endured the pain; physically, emotionally and spiritually because of our sin. The wage was received by him, but earned by us.
I am tired of being comfortable with the “small sin.” I am tired of being a Pharisee and saying, “at least my sin is not like that persons.” I want to live in the victory of the cross and the freedom for which “Christ has set me free.” I don’t want a religious, legalistic religion. I want a vibrant, alive, growing relationship with Jesus.
How about you?