We should know this. We have all the sayings. “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.” “Buy Cheap; Buy Twice.” “You get what you pay for.” “If you pay peanuts, you’re going to get monkeys.” (That one is mine.) Yet, we are still suckers for what we think is a great deal.
It made me appreciate even more the fact that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).
First, God’s free does offer the greatest of all possible gifts––eternal life. Of all the religions of the world, Christianity is the only free gift of salvation. ALL others (and by some counts there are almost 4300 others) require that an individual accomplish something or a series of somethings to be assured salvation. Of the major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism all describe salvation as “self-attained,” while Islam “stresses that in order to gain salvation, one must also avoid sinning along with performing good deeds.” (A feat I fail at on one end or the other on a daily basis.) In these religions, one will never really know if he or she has done enough to be saved until death, an uncertainty one must be willing to live with. Accepting God’s free gift of his son’s sacrifice offers that security immediately (John 3:16).
However, though the gift is free to accept, one’s life post-acceptance does not come without its costs. During his ministry on earth, Jesus does nothing to hide the fact that following him will have costs because we live in a world that is selfish, self-centered, self-promoting, self-aggrandizing, and any other self- descriptor you want to think of. He tells us that the world will hate you because it hated me first (John 15:18). And they hated him because he called them out and showed the emptiness and eternally expensive cost of their way of life.
No, Jesus reveals the costs right up front. In Luke 14, he tells his listeners that following him could lead to strife in families and a personal struggle to give up one’s own desires. In Mark 8:34 he reiterates this thought plus adds that each of us will have our own personal cross to bear, which in some cases could lead to death. Life will get harder not easier because we will be a very real reminder of the false advertising of this world and that the “value” of what it has to offer is sub-par, short-lived, and only temporarily satisfying.
So as you begin to thumb through your Christmas catalogs this year, looking for those special gifts at unbelievably low prices, don’t forget about the greatest gift of all, a free gift that, despite the subsequent costs, will satisfy for a lifetime and––in a twist on a Buzz Lightyear quote––provides for eternity and beyond.