If we’re part of Western society we are perhaps familiar with the term “rat race”. Wikipedia defines a rat race as:
“An endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit; it conjures up the image of lab rats racing through a maze to get the ‘cheese’ much like society racing to get ahead financially.”
All too often we get caught up in the material way of thinking – bills have to be paid, we need food on the table, and in order to pay our bills and get food on the table we need to work. It is very human to think that the kingdom of God is set up the same way, i.e. we have to earn our way to heaven. That’s what people think nowadays, and that’s what people thought in Jesus’ day, hence the question came up (John 6:28-29):
“Then they asked him [Jesus], ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”
Now that’s an interesting answer to an understandable question. Programmed by our experiences, we expect the kingdom of God to be run in the same fashion as our society is run. That’s the only reality we know. We assume we have to do something so that God can bless us. “There is no such thing as free lunch” is another common byword that supports that mindset.
However, once we meet God our horizon will be widened. There is such a thing as free lunch – When Jesus fed 5000 people He did not expect anything back in return. And there is such a thing as unconditional love – God loves us no matter what we do. There is also such a thing as free salvation – we don’t have to pay Jesus for dying on the cross for us. So, what is there left to do?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing – and this is the rationale of Jesus’s reply when He basically says: ‘All work is done!’ Interestingly, He puts it this way (John 6:29):
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Even the one condition that grants us salvation: believing in the One God has sent – is God’s work, not ours, and that makes perfect sense. Ever tried to love on command? How did that work out for you? How about trying to believe on command?
In all reality, both faith and love are a gift from God. We believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit not because we worked hard to believe but because it was given to us as a free gift. That’s God’s amazing grace in action!
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” (John Newton)