This article was first published in the Standard Bearer
There are some things that we get for nothing.
In fact we get some of the most important things of life for nothing.
We get the rain and the sunshine, without which we could not live, entirely free of charge. No man yet paid God for a drop of rain or a beam of sunlight. We may pay our water bill to the city and our electric light bill to the utility company. But no man ever paid God for either of these.
Then there is the life-giving air which we breathe. It is there every day in abundance. And although there may come a day when we have to buy the oxygen in our hospital bed to ease an injured heart or help the congested lungs, we do not buy a mouthful or nostril full from God. He supplies it every day entirely without our help and without any reimbursement from us.
And above all we get life itself entirely free of charge. The child does not buy it from his parents. The parents do not charge the child for it. God gives it through the parents; and although some parents may expect that their children in gratitude will take care of them in their declining years of old age because of this gift of life, it comes from God as a free gift for which we cannot even repay Him. What we would try to use to clear ourselves of this debt is already His. If the obtaining of earthly, physical life were conditional, there would be no life in the physical, earthly sense. An advertisement in the paper may give a suggestion as to a gift to "The man that has everything." And usually something can be and is suggested that he does not have, even though he has money to buy himself what he wishes without practically any difficulty. But God is The One Who has everything! You name it, it is His. And then will you give it to Him for this rain, sunshine, oxygen and life itself?
Will you then do so foolishly also with all those benefits of spiritual life and with that very life itself? Here, too, we always receive all things for nothing. That is, as far as our works and our gifts are concerned it is received for nothing. It is a costly gift. We do not buy it, but God had to purchase it—and not from the devil, but from His own righteousness. The cost was the death of His Son. The price was the precious blood of His Son. Nothing less would do. In no other way could God's justice be satisfied. Only so would His righteous demands be met.
And He gave His Son. He furnished that tree that became the cross. The nails were made from His iron. That cross stood on a parcel of land that is His in the absolute sense of the Word. He furnished the torment of our punishment that had to be poured out on this His Son. And He has never sent us a bill for any part of it. He never will send a bill. Indeed He will send a bill for "damages" to those who nailed Him to the tree, and to all those who crucify Him afresh today. And He will be collecting for these "damages" everlastingly in the lake of fire. But of those who are benefited by that cross; of those for whom His Son died on the cross, He will not present at any time in the everlasting continuance of the kingdom of that Son, a claim for recompense or remuneration. Salvation is free!
And salvation would have to be free.
We have nothing to use in order to buy from God. We have nothing to trade or exchange. We are utterly penniless before He gives us of the riches of salvation. And when He makes us rich with salvation, He bestows on us His own possessions. O, indeed, Isaiah saw all this when he cried in Isaiah 55:1, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." Salvation is prepared for the penniless that God may be rich in glory. None of His glory must be given to man. And therefore salvation must from beginning to end be His gift to us and must not include anywhere along the way a gift on our part to God as the requirement. There shall be the gift of praise in sincere gratitude but never as a payment.
But we live in an age when men want something for nothing from each other. Yea, even this can be good. A gift is not a gift unless it is given without any desire for reimbursement. If we give something in order to get something, we are only performing a business transaction and are not doing a work of charity. We are bargaining and not really giving. It is not an act of love but of shrewd earthly wisdom. It does not come from the heart but from an advantage-seeking mind. On the part of the giver it should always be giving because he wants to give and not because he wants to receive penny for penny, service for service.
From the viewpoint of the receiver, however, so often it is seeking something for nothing, enrichment at the expense of someone else's expense, advantage at someone else's disadvantage. One refuses to work, refuses to part with money for a coveted object and demands something for nothing. They are all for a "Share the Wealth" program, provided they get some one else's goods but need not give any of their own away for less fortunates. Sometimes also to soothe the conscience, Scripture is quoted to the effect that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and therefore we ought to give others the opportunity to give so that we may receive. We give them the opportunity to give us our coveted items; and we get something (these items) for our nothing (a mere giving of the opportunity, which costs us nothing and really is not giving to these, but putting ourselves in a position to receive.)
Witness much of the action in the ghetto, the slum district, the underprivileged and plain "have nots." Among them there are those who desire an opportunity to work and to better their position in an honest, industrious way, but with so many it simply is a matter of getting at once what others have, by getting it from these others through no honest effort of their own. No, but by looting during riots and seizing by force the goods of those who obtained these by labour and industry, they would hurdle all these obstacles and get something for nothing, something without their own sweat and toil, something through the sweat and toil of others.
No different is it with those who do have but lust for more. The whole labour movement, here in our country at least, is operated on a, "Get-Something-for-Nothing" basis. That, in years gone by, management did abuse the worker, no one will deny. The shoe was on the other foot, and the employer sought to get something for nothing from his employees. This produced the occasion for the rising of the labour unions. We will not deny that labour had a large room for complaining of unjust and merciless treatment. But must the pendulum swing completely over to the other side today so that the employees get so much for nothing? Extended coffee breaks when no work is done, payment of this fringe benefit and that, shorter working hours with more pay, less work—the amount determined by union leaders—with raises in pay, all pile up as labor's attempt to get something for nothing. And is the end in sight?
Where is the incentive anymore today? Where is there any initiative on the part of the worker? Where is there careful craftsmanship and the desire to do a good piece of work? Men care not what kind of work they produce as long as they get that check at the end of the week. And management is helpless to get rid of such workers who give only a part of their time to work, who do the job with poor workmanship because the union will defend and insist that this worker get something for nothing.
Almost every week you get a letter through the mail urging you to trust to luck and "get something for nothing" by bowing before Lady Luck. "You may have won $10,000 already," so the catchy leading lines read. Here is a "chance" to get something you always wanted, your lust coveted, and it is all for nothing! The envelope is even arranged for you so that it will not even cost you the price of a stamp. It becomes so easy to get something for nothing. One would be inclined to say, "My, we surely have a wonderful world, so many people looking out for our good and interested in having the lust of our flesh, the lust of our eyes and the pride of our life satisfied!" You do not even have to be there for the drawing. For the little effort of signing your name and address and giving your phone number, you will get word by phone or letter that you are the "lucky" one. Men's lusts are fed. The Word says, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house . . . ," and the world says, "But we will tempt you to covet this and that and the next thing." You see what the neighbor has. NO, you do not want him' to lose it so that you can have it. You do not hate him THAT MUCH! But you do not like the fact that he has it and you do not. You ought to have one like it. You must keep up with the Jones family next door. You cannot, because God has not given you the same talents and the same job and its opportunities. But here comes that letter! There is that sign in the grocery store! Loud and clear over radio and television comes the message of a way to satisfy your lust and get this something you covet for nothing. Maybe you can even turn your nose up at the Jones family next door. They went to Hawaii last week while you had to stay quite near home—or maybe spend your vacation painting the house to cut financial corners. But by bowing before Lady Luck, feeding your lust, you can win that trip around the world and include Hawaii on the list. That will make the neighbor look up and respect you! Aha! a way to get something for nothing and at the same time get to be something!
The manufacturer also will get some of your money for nothing. He will deliberately produce an inferior product that looks good but will not work well after a short period of time and use. But he will still attach the same price to his product that is fair for a good product. The dairy will water down the milk. The gasoline station will set the pumps to give a short gallon. The department store will mark up the price and then put a tag on the object listing this marked up price plus a new price that still is higher than the regular price to lure some uneducated buyer, so that the store gets something for nothing. And thus we could continue.
But what shall we say of all this?
Is all fair in love and business? "Everybody does it." One who is wise expects it. Is it so very wrong—or is it wrong at all—to get something for nothing? Does Scripture have anything to say about this? We would like to continue this thought next time. But for the moment let us examine our own lives and hearts to observe how common this is among us who profess to be God's royal priesthood, who have a calling to do all in His fear.
Rev. John A. Heys was born on March 16, 1910 in Grand Rapids, MI. He was ordained and installed into the ministry at Hope, Walker, MI in 1941. He later served at Hull, Iowa beginning in 1955. In 1959 he accepted the call to serve the South Holland, IL Protestant Reformed Church. He received and accepted the call to Holland, Michigan Protestant Reformed Church in 1967. He retired from the active ministry in 1980. He entered into glory on February 16, 1998.