If you know me, this article is for you. If you’ve ever discovered my arrogant heart by teaching me or disagreeing with me, this is for you. In a more general sense, if you’ve ever tried to collaborate with or constructively critique another person, and they lacked the teachability or humility...
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
I love re-reading parts of Scripture that I have read many times. And Romans 6:23 is one of those verses I’ve read a lot. I’m pretty sure I used this verse in every Bible class paper throughout high school and college.
What’s remarkable about the Bible, and maybe you know this from first-hand experience, is that every time I approach it with a willingness and eagerness to learn, God’s Word teaches me something new.
Sometimes I grasp onto some nuance, and other times I pick up on something so obvious, I think: How did I not see this before?
Romans 6:23: Wages of Sin
I’m not sure whether it’s a nuance or an obvious thing, but I recently read this verse again and realized something I had not before. I’ve always read it as: if you’re a sinner without Christ, at the end of your life you’ll experience eternal death, but if you are in Christ, you will receive the free gift of eternal life.
While that’s true, I realized the phrase “wages of sin” seems to imply not only what happens when we die but also what happens now in our lives.
Don’t take this as a commentary on first-century life, because I’m not an expert, but people don’t normally get paid for all their work when they retire, right? People usually get paid directly or soon after they work.
When we sin, we receive its wages. And when we rest in God’s grace, we receive God’s free gift. It may be helpful to make a distinction between lifetime wages and daily wages. Lifetime wages of sin, or the end result, means eternal death. But what are the daily wages?
3 Daily Wages of Sin
Turmoil – Death of Comfort
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,
and my bones waste away. (Psalm 31:9-10)
David had committed a great sin and he received its wages—turmoil. Hear his words: in distress, eye is wasted, life is spent, sighing, strength fails, bones waste away. This is a man in turmoil due to his own actions.
What causes this turmoil? In the beginning, God created us to be in union with him. But humanity sinned, and we corrupted our nature. We now cannot do good (Psalm 53:3), but through God’s great grace there’s still something inside of us that seeks good: God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
We know good exists, but we cannot do it. And so, when we sin, we are reminding ourselves of our inability to achieve what our hearts desperately want—union with God. This brings us great turmoil.
Jesus speaks to those who were weeping, to those who were mourning. He says: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). He’s saying that there’s a way out of the turmoil. If you recognize it, admit your sin, and grieve it in your life, Jesus is there to comfort you.
But for those who don’t acknowledge sin’s daily wages, those who continue in sin, turmoil turns into apathy. And no mourning means no blessed comfort—in other words, the death of comfort.
Strain – Death of Peace
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
When we sin, we are putting something else before God and His Word—our own reputation, our selfish desires, etc. Here in Isaiah, God’s Word promises to keep those who trust in Him “in perfect peace.” How is this so? Romans 8:28 says:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Is this verse saying that everyone who believes in God will have a perfect, easy life? No. It’s saying that if you are all-in for God’s glory, then you know for sure that things will end well because God has all the glory and will make his glory known to the whole world.
If you are not all-in for God’s glory, perhaps you are part-in for his glory and part-in for your glory, then you will lack the peace that comes from having your mind “stayed on [God].”
When we sinfully put ourselves before God, we open the door for great strain in our lives. Your money may run out, your successes may end, and your relationships may fail. I know I spend way too much time straining to bring myself peace amid these uncertain things.
Don’t let strain reign in your life—killing the peace you can obtain through God’s Word.
Foolishness – Death of Wisdom
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin. (Proverbs 21:3)
A friend of mine sat in a parking lot pulling up directions on her phone. A truck tried to pull through into the spot next to her. The only problem was that there was a shopping cart there, slanted toward her car. The cart then slammed into her car and scratched its way across the doors.
Meanwhile, my friend sat wide-eyed in horror inside her car as the truck continued its attempt to move forward. Finally, it stopped. She got out to confront the driver.
She approached the window, saw a man in the driver’s seat, and told him he had damaged her car. My friend was reasonably upset, and all she asked of him was to exchange insurance information so she could leave.
The man, however, became visibly agitated. He started yelling at her, blaming her for the accident. My friend then called the store, and a manager came out with two security guards. When the man in the truck saw them, he started blaming them for the accident. It took a while, but he eventually gave her the information.
Outside the moment, it’s easy to identify this behavior as foolishness. But in the moment of our sin, it’s not so easy. In the moment, our sin fuels that “lamp of the wicked” spurring us onto a proud heart. How can we resist this?
Psalm 119:10 says:
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
Submitting ourselves to God’s will and looking for wisdom in his Word brings true light. So, don’t seek the false light from “the lamp of the wicked,” resulting in foolishness, but receive wisdom and true light from God’s Word.
Daily Wages of Faith
These are but a few things that sin will cause in your life. Why choose it? Choose to have faith in Jesus and experience the free gift of eternal life. This will happen in the future, and for now, we receive its daily wages: his comfort, his peace, and his wisdom.