This morning, my son posted a Facebook Live and asked this question, “What does Romans 6:23 mean to you?” He asked anyone and everyone who view his post to answer. So, I thought I’d respond.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23 NIV.
I chose to answer because of the Hollywood definition depicted, and often trusted to be accurate, is so wrong. I believe the media explanation is shared by so many today, even Christians. It basically says that one day you will be judged by the balance of good and bad one does on Earth. You will be paid accordingly, either with forever in Heaven or reincarnated to a higher form or something akin to those. If you don’t happen to believe in the afterlife, the good you do gets you good karma, etc. The truth behind Romans 6:23 is nearly the opposite and it is what distinguishes Christianity from all other forms of religions and beliefs. I’ll try to break it down for you.
I think most people need no explanation of the word wages in “the wages of sin” part. Just in case, I looked up other versions of the verse and found wages used most often, but also “pension,” pay,” “payment,” etc. So, we get paid to sin, but the payment is death. I think it’s the ideas that we have about “sin” and even “death” that causes misunderstanding and confusion.
I wish I knew Greek and Hebrew and then I could spout scholarly with this definition. Since I do not know Hebrew which is as Greek to me as Greek, I will define sin comparing this verse with other verses in the Bible.
Sin in this verse is not sins. There are sins or wrongs that we, including me, are very capable of doing. For instance, just today, I found myself in my car following a car which was traveling in the passing lane under the speed limit of 55 MPH. I feel more comfortable driving at least 60 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, so I thought some very ugly thoughts about this slow driver. The ugly thoughts, the bad habit of driving above the speed limit is wrong. If you choose to call them sin, then you could be right. But wait, I wax worse.
When this driver and I stopped at the red light, I noticed his or her handicap license plate. I thought to myself, “I know what your handicap is; you cannot drive.” I almost didn’t write this, because I’m so ashamed of it. But from what I read in the Bible, that is not going to send me to Hell. Neither is lying, cheating, lust, murder, pedophilia or prostitution. Here’s a real shocker for some “Christians” who show up at military funerals – neither does homosexuality send you to Hell.
I don’t think what I did was right. I definitely don’t condone murder, pedophilia, lying, etc. I do know I have just sinned against the brevity of this piece and will now return to the question at hand.
I hope I haven’t portrayed wrongs against others too lightly. I didn’t mean to do so. I hoped to clarify that the word sin is often treated too lightly. I believe the word “sin” in Romans 6:23 means basically sin against God. By that, I mean placing anything else as utmost in our lives. In other words, I believe sin is treating God and especially his love for us too lightly. The account of Adam and Eve symbolizes to what I am referring.
Adam and Eve were privileged to walk and talk with God. They lived peacefully among all other creatures on the Earth. They could partake of all the vegetation and fruits perfectly grown without contamination in the Garden of Eden. They lived a life in Utopia. But it wasn’t enough. God gave them everything, including perfect fellowship with him. He did ask them not to eat of one tree. Not out of meanness, but as protection. If they ate of that one tree, he said they would die.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17 NIV
Adam and Eve wanted more. They took the word of Satan, in the form of a serpent over the one who created them. Not only that, they mistrusted God. That was there sin. They believed the words of someone else and trusted their own instincts more than God. They hid from God, because now they understood the difference between good and evil and with this newfound knowledge of good and evil, they knew they had chosen evil, they realized their nakedness. They had exposed themselves to evil.
If you know the account, you know that they did not die, at least not immediately. They, of course, eventually did die and eventually we all die. If we continue to mistrust or dishonor God and take his words lightly, we, like Adam and Eve will lose fellowship with God.
This is the real wage for sin – a life of mediocre existence. We will understand a lot about evil and good, but always discontent and wanting more.
“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Wages are what you earn. Eternal life is a gift from God. I am going to assume you know the difference between a gift and wages. I will assume also that you can see by the use of the word gift that you do not have to or can earn eternal life.
To help us understand what this last part of the verse means to me, I’ll begin with this verse which may have some familiarity for you.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16-18, The Message
God gave his Son to be the sinless sacrifice we need so that an unholy being can relate to a Holy Creator. Jesus was not only God’s Son, but he was with God and He is God. God gave his life, earthly, fleshly life, so that we could have a full, rich, wonderful life. Eternal life starts immediately when you begin to trust God over yourself or any philosophy, creed, religion or anyone or anything else. If you don’t have enough faith to face what life has to offer, it’s part of God’s gift. He gives you the faith.
9/11 was not God’s judgement on this nation. It is the natural product of a people responding to a lie and hurting others. Your troubles are not punishment for your sins. The world is getting farther and farther away from God and putting trust in something other than God. That something may look appealing and very satisfying and may even be very wonderful at this moment, but it is not eternal and cannot lead to an eternally abundant life. If you believe anything other than God can give you the life you always wanted, then you believe a lie.
I close with this version of Romans 6:23. This sums up very closely to what I have tried to share. This is what Romans 6:23 means to me.
But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master. The Message
I write about what I'm thinking or what I've imagined in an effort to regain that childhood imagination and marry with my many years of real experiences. I'm getting better at it the more I write.I am a published author of two romantic intrigue novels.My books can be found at Amazon.com or if you want a personalized copy, by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.