Does Grace Make Us Lazy?
The Fall 2013 issue of Leadership Journal contains an interesting article by Tullian Tchividjian addressing grace and our motivation. (Tullian Tchividjian is pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)
The gospel declares that, because of Christ’s finished work for us, we already have all of the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning, and rescue we long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus.
The gospel announces that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus’ feats for us. Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life doesn’t have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves.
He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail.
This means we don’t have to transform the world in order to have our lives matter. We don’t have to build a big church to secure our own worth. We don’t have to be successful to justify our existence.
Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak. Because Jesus was someone, you’re free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose.
But hold on … wait a minute.
Doesn’t this unconditional declaration generate apathy? Doesn’t it create an I-don’t-care posture toward life? If Jesus paid it all, if it is truly finished, if my value, worth, security, freedom, justification, and so on is forever fixed, than why do anything? Doesn’t grace undercut ambition? Doesn’t the gospel weaken effort?
But the gospel actually empowers risk-taking effort and neighbor-embracing love.
The thing that prevents us from taking great risks is the fear that if we don’t succeed, we’ll lose out on something we need in order to be happy. So we live life playing our cards close to the chest. We do this relationally, vocationally, and spiritually. We measure our investments carefully because we need a return. We’re afraid to give because it might not work out and we need it to work out.
But, because everything we need in Christ we already possess, we can take great risks, push harder, go farther, and leave it all on the field without fear. We can invest with reckless abandon because we don’t need to ensure a return of success, love, meaning, validation, and approval. We can invest freely and forcefully because we’ve been freely and forcefully invested in.
The fear of not knowing whether I’ll get a return is replaced by the freedom of knowing we already have everything. Because I already possess everything in Christ, I’m now free to do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me.
I can now actively spend my life giving instead of taking, going to the back instead of getting to the front, sacrificing myself for others instead of sacrificing others for myself. The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage.
When you don’t have anything to lose, you discover something wonderful: you’re free to take great risks without fear or reservation. This is the difference between approaching all of life from salvation and approaching all of life for salvation; it’s the difference between approaching life from our acceptance, and not for our acceptance; from love not for love.
So, what are you going to do now that you don’t have to do anything?
Once your heart is gripped by the reality that you don’t need to do anything for Jesus, you’ll discover that you want to do everything for him.