We have a saying that “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”. What we mean by it is that whether we have to personally pay for something or not, there is always a cost associated with it.
We see this illustrated all the time in our daily lives. For example, when someone gives you a gift, just because you did not pay for it does not mean that the gift cost nothing. No, the person who gave you the gift either had to put out some money for it, or he had to invest his own time and effort into making it for you. In fact, the gifts which we appreciate most are the ones which cost the giver the most. The ones in which the giver invested more of himself are the most valuable to us.
Gifts not only cost the giver, sometimes the recipient also has to expend some effort in order to receive the benefit of the gift. For example, these days it’s increasingly common to give gift cards – particularly when we don’t know what the person we wish to honor wants or needs. Now a gift card for a particular restaurant is absolutely no use to us at all if we merely stick it in our wallet. No, in order to receive the benefit of the gift which was made to us, we have to actually go to the restaurant and order a meal. In other words, we have to do something in order to receive the gift. This does not make the gift any less of a gift, it merely illustrates that there is a cost associated with it. If we are not willing to accept that we, as well as the giver, have to invest something of ourselves in it, we will not receive the benefit of the gift.
The same principle holds true in spiritual things. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of salvation as a gift. For example, we’re all familiar with what Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)
What makes eternal life a gift? It’s a gift because it is something which is given to us. In addition, it is not something which we can obtain on our own. Unless it is given to us, it will remain beyond our reach.
The gift of eternal life is also precious because it cost the giver everything He had. It cost Jesus Christ, His life. There can’t be a greater price than that. Based on the cost, we ought to value the gift higher than anything else we have.
But though salvation is a gift, it does not mean that there isn’t a cost to us as well as to the giver. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-33 NIV)
Yes, the gift of salvation is costly, not only for the giver – but also for the recipient. Jesus clearly told us to give thought to the cost before we decide to accept the gift. We must put a higher value on our relationship to Christ than our family, our own desires and even our life. To put it another way, we must die in order to live. The Apostle Peter puts it this way, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV)
Each week we gather to remember the gift that God gave us in Jesus Christ. We gather to remember the cost of the gift and to give thanks to the giver. But as we eat the bread which reminds us of Christ’s body and the juice which reminds us of Christ’s blood, let’s also remember the cost which we must accept in order to gain the benefit of the gift. Have I been crucified with Christ, so that I might also live with Him?