EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS EARNED… OR IS IT?
By Gessica Chadic
“With hard work, anything is possible!”
“Earn it. You’ll appreciate it more.”
“Be thankful for what you have. Work hard for what you don’t have.”
Since freshman year of high school, I have sworn and lived by the notion that success is only earned through hard work. I am sure that I am not the only person to do so. Truthfully, this notion about hard work and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is embedded in the core of our nation. It’s the premise of the “American Dream”. People can come from “nothing”, but, through hard work, can achieve success and earn a beautiful white picket fenced house in the suburb of their choice.
At various times throughout my career as a student, I have had the three aforementioned quotes as the screensaver of my laptop or written throughout my notebooks as a way to stay motivated. They were engraved in my brain. I knew that nothing in this world would just be given to me. I had to work for everything. When I wanted a car, I worked two jobs and saved up to purchase it. I earned it! I wanted to go to graduate school, but I recognized early on that I did not have the financial resources to afford it, so I kept an above average GPA and got a scholarship. I earned that! This formula always worked for me. It became my paradigm for how I was going to navigate my life.
Before I knew it, I was also subconsciously using this same formula to manage my relationship with God. I applied this formula to how I ascribed meaning to Jesus’ unfailing love. Because, how could it truly be that my Savior would redeem me at no cost to me? After years of being conditioned to work for and earn everything, I couldn’t accept that God would take me just as I am without me having to work for His approval and love. I am sure that I am not the only person to do this.
Many of us make the mistake of thinking obedience is a way to earn God’s favor and blessings. We go to mission trips to serve others, so that God can give us something in return. We abstain from sex before marriage, so that God can bless us with the perfect spouse. We fall into the habit of doing to earn instead of doing as a loving response to love. I can think back to many times in my life where God chose to protect and bless me, even though I was undoubtedly living in a way that was not pleasing to him and failed to have a servant’s heart. For that matter, I can think of many people who were blessed with God-fearing spouses, even though they had not always been abstinent before marriage. This is not to diminish the importance of obedience in our walk with Christ. But it is important to understand that all good things come to us by the grace of Jesus and not as reward for our obedience.
God requires our obedience and surrender not so that He can accept us, but so that we can thrive in the acceptance that He already has given us.
Obeying God is not a way to earn His love – but it is a way to reciprocate the love that He has already given. In John 14:23 Jesus said “whoever loves me will obey my teaching”. We often apply that teaching inversely and live as if Jesus said “I will love whoever obeys my teaching.” Obedience is just our way of loving Jesus back.
God’s love, Jesus’ sacrifice, is not something that we can alter or shape. It just is. Nothing that we do on earth can have an impact on the way that God loves us or make his yearning and reaching for us cease. And knowing and believing that is our emancipation proclamation. We ARE free! It IS finished!
God’s love is steady. It is unending. It is ludicrous and overwhelming. Our only task is to nurture, reciprocate, and live in that love.
The notion of earning and working hard to achieve things is great. It forces us to persevere and be accountable for our actions. It is a great phrase to repeat when we are feeling lazy or need to push harder. We just need to remember that God’s love is not our achievement or reward. God’s love is the Lord’s gift. The main thing that God will get out of our lives is who we become. The gift of God’s love enables us to give our new selves back to God. Who we become is a gift – for God, for neighbor, for self.
The joy of our new life in Christ is probably found more in who we are than in what milestones we hit or achievements we attain. Let us obey, serve, follow, and surrender in gratitude as a response to what Jesus did for us on the cross. We do not earn His blood, His sacrifice, His death or His resurrection. But His gift is a gift that we are blessed to continue to receive – and to give.
Gessica Chadic is the Youth Evangelism and Outreach Director at the Raleigh, NC Corps. Ms. Chadic has a passion for international missions. She has worked for the City of Raleigh as a Financial Assistance Program Administrator. Ms. Chadic earned her Masters of Public Administration at North Carolina State University and her BA in Public Relations from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.