However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:5
Most of us, raised in the West, grew up with a very strong work ethic. We were taught to work hard and to provide for our families with the sweat of our brows. The thought of ever taking a handout was humiliating. Even the Bible teaches that if you don’t work, you don’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and that if you don’t provide for your family, you’re worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8). But, when it comes to faith and righteousness, God rewards those who don’t work.
Trusting God for our salvation frees us from many things. We are free from our debt of sin. We are free from condemnation. We are free from guilt and shame. We are free from having to control our own lives. But, could trusting God make things a little too free?
Look at it this way: if we were stopped for a traffic violation, the officer would give us a ticket. We would pay the fine. The offense would be “atoned” for, and everything would be settled. The officer wouldn’t demand anything else from us. It’s a done deal. But, if salvation doesn’t require anything more than trusting in God, then what else might God ask us to do? It’s completely out of our control.
Some of us would rather continue to obey a list of rules and feel safe within a religion that we (or a church) has created for us. As long as we obey the club rules, then we can remain safely in the club. If we violate the club rules, then our fellow members are obligated to come down hard on us. The rules are safe. If we work for the church and avoid falling into sin, then we are safe and secure. We are free to breathe a sigh of relief. We are free to judge the rule breakers. We are free to live the rest of our lives however we’d like to. After all, we’re keeping the rules.
Rulekeepers are sort of like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The older brother stayed home. The older brother kept the rules. The older brother complained, “'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29).
According to Tim Keller in his book, The Prodigal God, the elder brother didn’t need the father’s mercy, because he kept all of the rules. If you think your life is perfect, then you don’t need grace. You don’t need to trust God, because you trust yourself to keep the rules. The problem is that without trust in God and without His grace, you cannot be saved. You can work hard to fit into a church culture and to fit into society. You could even be a charter member or the citizen of the year, but you wouldn’t be saved.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Can you let Jesus take the wheel even when the driving seems easy?