It was just another day in room 9-2. As with any classroom, sometimes students do not do what is expected of them. This day, one of my students had not been meeting the expectations for most of the four hours we had been together. He is a sweet, thoughtful, respectful little ball of endless energy and sometimes that energy comes out at the wrong times. After redirecting him several times, I told him if he couldn’t focus where he was sitting, I would need him to move to another place because the students around him were being distracted by his behavior. He made the choice and moved his things to the table at the outer rim of the room to complete his work. Several minutes later, he approaches me with 20 classroom dollars in hand. I didn’t think much of it. I just assumed he had found the $20 on the floor and was turning it in, because that’s the kind of kid he is. Another 15 minutes passes and he’s handing me another wad of cash. At that point, I asked him, “What is this for? Did you find it or is it yours?” He replies, “It’s mine. I’m paying you for getting in trouble.” When it became clear what he was trying to do, I smiled, handed back the money, grabbed the 20 he had given me earlier and told him there was nothing to pay.
What that 10-year-old boy was doing in that moment was what we all do. We know we’re guilty and something inside of us says we must pay for our transgressions. So, when we lash out at someone we love, we try to fix it by doing something nice. When we fail to keep our word, we make up for it by promising double the next time. Deep within us we know our mistakes, our failures, our shortcomings, our sin must be paid for. There must be recompense. Where we go wrong is we think $20 is enough. We think we can give enough, serve enough, do enough good things, as if somehow all that will eventually add up to make our moral account balanced. But here’s the bad news, $20 will never be enough.
In steps Jesus. In steps the cross. In steps grace. In steps good news. In and of ourselves, we’ll never be good enough. The scales will never be balanced. So, Jesus came, and he paid the cost; in FULL. We owe nothing. He came, lived a perfect life, died the death we should have died, and was raised to life anew to prove he had conquered both death and sin. For those who believe in him, he has paid your debt. Your sin has been replaced with his righteousness. But it doesn’t stop there, and this is the breathtaking beauty of the gospel; In Christ, God takes the penalty of our sin and gives us righteousness and with it everything else that is his is now ours. He doesn’t just pay our debt and send us away. He pays our debt and invites us in. We become his. We who were once outsides, far from him, disassociated from his name, are now welcomed at his table, not just for a day, not just long enough for the transaction to be made but forever.
The striving can cease. The endless pursuit to measure up can be replaced with endless praise to the One who measured up for us. The constant need to atone for our wrongdoings can be exchanged for rest in the atoning work of Christ at calvary. Guilt and shame can be laid at the foot of the cross and grace and mercy can be picked up instead. In humble adoration, we can lift our heads and surrender our hearts to the God who is full of compassion and steadfast love, and we can live each minute, each hour, each day in light of that love.
Twenty dollars isn’t enough. Jesus is.