When Sin's Wages Meet Christ's Forgiveness

Text: Matthew 9:1-8

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

Sin is a bit more problematic than we like to admit.  It wouldn’t be a big problem if sin did not have a consequence.  In other words, sin would not be a big deal if it did not yield a wage.  But sin does.  The Apostle Paul tells us in the Epistle of Romans that “the wages of sin is death.”  In other words, sin has a payout, it has a wage, it has a punishment - and that is death. 

Now, obviously, Paul is speaking about sin before God.  But what about sin before other people and entities?  Thankfully when we sin in the left-hand kingdom (in the realm of the state), we don’t automatically get the death penalty.  Can you imagine getting pickup up for speeding and then being faced with the electric chair or lethal injection?  Can you imagine failing to return a library book on time and then being dragged out into the street and shot?  Obviously, for the majority of the sins that we commit in the realm of the state, the wage is not death but something else, such as a fine, community service, or probation. 

But the point remains – in the left-hand kingdom of the state, there are wages for sin.  There are consequences for sin.  There are punishments.  In extreme cases, there may even be death, but often, there is some lesser form of punishment for sin.

Within the realm of the family, there are wages for sin as well.  When a youth goes out to a party and misses curfew, the wages of sin are not the death of the teenager but a possible grounding for two weeks.  When a husband selfishly buys a new $1200 rifle or if a wife selfishly purchases a $400 pedicure, manicure, and facial package, the wages of sin is not death but a sure and certain fight with added credit card payments to boot. 

Again, the point that is being made, you and I cannot sin without there being a consequence.  Sin has a wage.  Sin has a payout and a punishment.  That is how it works.  Even when we say that we did not sin, sin still has a wage.  Even if we have happy non-sin thoughts, well… where there is sin, there is a wage to that sin. 

Indeed, sin has a profound wage.  Sin condemns us before God, entangles us with others, and makes us blind.  It excites wrath and displeasure; it does not give us any resources to change our condition.  When we sin, our conscience becomes burdened, while those around us become like a tyrant or jailer.  They rightly remind us of our sins – constantly bringing our sins to our minds and keeping us with our heads held low. 

And so, a great majority of our time in this life is spent trying to overcome the wages of sin.  We run from our past sins.  We try to justify ourselves before our current sins.  We then fight against people around us to try and get them not to remember our sins or hold us responsible for our sins.  Frankly stated, it is one big mess.  It is enough to bring our hearts to despair. 

But that is where Jesus comes into the picture.  Consider our reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus looked to the paralytic man that had been brought before Him and said,

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."

And just like that, the paralytic man’s sins were forgiven.  

But it can’t be that easy, though!  Can it?  Isn’t there always a consequence to sin?  Isn’t there a wage for sin?  Well, to drive this point home a bit more, Jesus told that very same man,

“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home."

And just like that, the paralytic man stood up and went home.  So much for consequences and an ongoing wage for sin.  That man was not only forgiven of his sins, but his handicap status (which many people often attributed to the effects of sin), well… it was gone too.  Can you imagine the freedom that this man felt in his body and soul being completely and totally liberated? 

So, what’s the point?  The point is that forgiveness in Jesus liberates you and me from the wages of sin.  When Jesus forgives you of your sins, all the jailers and tyrants who stand to accuse you are replaced by Jesus.  And with Jesus’ nailed-marked hands, there is no accusation but the holy words of

“Take heart; your sins are forgiven.”

And so, when you are forgiven in Jesus, you are made free and are restored to the Father’s favor. 

But what about the wages of sin?  Baptized Saints, in Christ’s Kingdom, there are no wages for sin, for Christ has freed you from the consequences of sin through His death and resurrection.  If there were further wages for sin, then Christ died for nothing.  If there were further consequences or punishments for sin, then Christ’s death and resurrection were incomplete. 

Think of it this way for a moment. The word ‘forgiveness’ means to: let go, send away, divorce, and lay aside.  And so when Christ forgives sin, you are divorced from sin and its consequences.  Sin is loosened from you and laid aside from you – it is laid on Christ.  And so, the forgiveness of Jesus frees you.  It defines you to be a forgiven child.  Even if you feel guilt, shame, and inadequacy, they do not define you because Jesus’ word of forgiveness is what defines you.  Even if your coworkers, neighbors, or family accuse you, label you, or curse you, they do not define you.  Jesus’ word of forgiveness is what defines you.  Even if your own physical defects, ailments, or sickness make you feel like you are under a curse, they do not define you.  Jesus’ word of forgiveness is what defines you.  Bluntly stated, forgiveness frees you.  The world, the devil, and your sinful nature no longer determine your thoughts: forgiveness bans condemnation, brooding, and revenge.  Jesus’ word of forgiveness is what defines you.  Take heart, dear son and daughter; your sins are forgiven. 

Now, it must be said that according to the Kingdom of God, you are forgiven.  However, in the workplace and civil society, the world does not always understand or practice forgiveness.  In fact, the world often outright abuses forgiveness.  The world does the exact opposite of forgiveness – it demands large payments for the wages of sin.  It punishes, accuses, condemns, and demands wages for sin.  Nevertheless, that does not change who you are before God almighty. 

And so, practically speaking, when your sins demand a wage before the government, well… you and I can provide compensation for the wrongs we have done because we have nothing to prove or hide.  When you sin against your neighbors, and they stomp their feet, demanding consequences and compensation for the wrongs you have done, well… you and I can use our time and resources to remedy what we broke as quickly as possible without having to fear their wrath and temper tantrums.  You see, that is how it works; when we are forgiven in Christ and are defined by Christ’s forgiveness in the Kingdom of God, then we don’t have to forget, ignore, or deny the wrongs that we do in this life.  We can take them seriously, acknowledge what we did wrong, and then seek to restore what we broke, all while knowing that our sins do not define and shape our relationships and status in this life.  In the words of a theologian,

“We climb over the rocks of [sin] to return to a godly relationship [with others] that reflects the peace and order of Eden in the midst of a fallen world.”

Now, once we have repaired what we have damaged, we know that these relationships are ultimately repaired not through the expenditure of our resources, time, or acts of love but through the gift of forgiveness.  And so, as forgiven people, we seek forgiveness from others while forgiving them, for only forgiveness heals broken relationships and failed opportunities.  When we forgive others, we lay our vulnerability and weakness onto God’s lap, leaving their sin under the authority and power of God, who makes all things new. 

Baptized Saints take heart; you are forgiven in Christ.  Not because you feel forgiven but because Jesus says that you are.  That is your identity.  You are liberated from the wages of sin through Christ.  And so, live in this freedom of forgiveness.  You are not trapped in the deeply dug soil of sin.  You are not trapped in the tit-for-tat quicksand of vengeance, condemnation, and silly blame games.  You are not glued to the consequences of sin but are glued to Jesus’ forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Rest in what you have been given.  Know that whatever this life may bring, it cannot change the history and reality of the forgiveness that you have in Christ Jesus, your Lord. 

“Take heart, dear son and daughter; your sins are forgiven! 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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