One day when my youngest was 5 or 6, she told me that green was her fifth favorite color. Yellow came in at number one, followed by greenish-bluish, purple and pink. I was glad to see blue made it in there even if it was only as part of a color.
I smiled at the matter-of-fact pronouncement, but aren’t we all attuned to ranks? My son used to team his Legos up in a complex tournament with ever-changing standings. I check my Amazon numbers more often than I’ll admit. We follow the AP and Coaches polls, the box office receipts, and Gallup numbers. How do we rate? Where do we rank? How do we compare?
Whether we own up to it or not, we figure God must have a ranking system too.
A hundred points at salvation to get you started, then … Reading your Bible, one point. Attending church, one point. Remembering anything from the sermon on Monday 10 bonus points. Witnessing to your neighbor, 50 points. Jesus fish on your car, 20 points. Gossiping – ouch, minus 20. Oh, but volunteering to help in VBS, 25 points, back on the plus side. If we make it into the thousand point club, God will answer our prayers more quickly and more often. The blessings will really flow then.
The idea that we can perform, that we can earn God’s favor or His blessing is contrary to the idea of God’s grace. Paul states it plainly in Romans 11:6 “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” ESV
The two are mutually exclusive. Either we work for and earn God’s favor or He gives it to us because He loves us. I even like how the NCV renders it “And if He chose them by grace, it is not for the things they have done. If they could be made God’s people by what they did, God’s gift of grace would not really be a gift.” (The “them” is Israel, then us as believers by extension.)
Yes, God calls for obedience and promises rewards for our faithfulness and stewardship. For now, know this. God’s favor is absolute, not in degrees. It doesn’t increase with our imagined ranking. We can’t earn it, because through Jesus Christ we already have it.