“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,…”
No one wants to hear the old slur, “You’re a good for nothing!” Even those who live by expolitation, robbery or handouts take offense at such a comment. But the fact remains that to live in the world means you have to be good for something. God has set it up that way. To not contribute, to not carry your weight is to call your worth and value into question. So, we learn from an early age. And because the world operates this way it is easy to assume that the same equation applies to our relationship with the Living God…and, in fact, it does. How human beings live, our thoughts, words and deeds, our works and ways matter.
We were made to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. That is our purpose, that is what we are good for (or should be), that is what justifies us, to use Paul’s language. So, how are you doing? Want to boast about how well you are fulfilling the law of love? Neither do I. And if that is the case, the questions can rightly be asked of us, ‘What are you good for? If not for love then what?’
St. Paul knew the Abraham story well enough to realize that it was not Abraham’s performance that made him a part of God’s people and plans. God made promises to Abraham and Abraham trusted those promises. End of story. Paul drew the proper theological conclusions from this and in the light of the cross and resurrection declared that faith is God’s singular way with us, the ungodly, the good-for-nothings. And this is so for no other reason that God would have it so! God gives us the righteousness of His beloved Son as gift, apart from our demonstrating that we have earned it or deserve it, and shows the world once and for all that He intends to run the world – and the future he will bring – according to His grace.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”