Gratitude and The Debtor’s Ethic

Recently, my bookshelf has housed several good reads. John Piper’s Future Grace is one of them. I began the book at my grandfather’s house, and quite honestly, I just saw it as a way to pass the time. What a hidden treat it has been. Moreover, Piper should be credited for most, if not all, of the revelatory thought here.

The dutiful and servile Christian life is a mendacious ruse to those who have misunderstood grace and gratitude. Gratitude, in regards to Christian virtue, is the pleasant sense of salvation – the thankful heart of the one who has received God’s grace. This recognition is most necessary and cherished by the called of God, but has unfortunately been misunderstood. Its function is not to instill a sense of debt to God, but rather lead one to faith for God’s future work of continual grace. Gratitude feeds faith, and this is its valued part of Christian obedience.

The current culture of Christianity has promoted legalism through gratitude. For in their gratefulness towards God, they seek to repay Him His gift. Phrases like, “God has saved you from eternal damnation and given you everything, what shall you give to Him?” and “God showed you that you were worth dying for, will you not do the same?”. These phrases are true in a certain light, but can be dangerously debased. All debts remain on those who are outside of Christ; the unsaved still are indebted in sin. The saved were freed from this debt. This freedom is the very aim off the cross and grace. Therefore, we seek not to repay God for what he has done, because that would nullify grace. Oh how insulting it truly is to make grace into a business transaction rather than a gift from God.

With the established wrong, let us present the right. Gratitude ought to lead one to a proper thanksgiving that generates trust in God. Trust in God is the first-fruits of faith, and here is where all obedience initiates. It is by the continual power of God that one obeys, performs sanctification, past the point of salvation. It is not through repaying God, because God owns your payment. The only payment one could possibly give is what God has already given them. All of our payments are mere disguised receptions. 

Practically lived, see your payment as paid. Stop trying to give God the holiness He has already paid for, and live in that same power. God grants us grace that we may see its value, and depend on it daily and continually. Thank the Lord.


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