We have inherited the riches beyond our wildest imagination, but continue living on our old budget, penny-pinching our way through life with God.
In the early 20th Century, a woman named Hetty Green died, leaving behind an incredible fortune. By today’s figures, it’s estimated that she was worth over four billion dollars at the time of her death. She was likely the wealthiest woman in the world when she died.
What’s most unusual about Hetty Green, though, is not her wealth but her stinginess.
Despite her great fortune, she lived an extremely simple and miserly life. She only owned one pair of clothing. She never used heat or hot water in her house.
When her son broke his leg, she refused to pay for him to go to a hospital, and his leg eventually had to be amputated. Her tightfistedness was so well-known, she is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the greatest miser in history! 1 If Hetty was so prosperous, you may be wondering:
- Why would she live like this?
- Why would she, having such great wealth and resources, not use them to her benefit?
- Why would anyone with unlimited riches never put them to use, never enjoy them?
If you think about it, this is what we Christians do all the time! We have the abundant, amazing, outrageous, unlimited, scandalous grace of the one true God, and yet we live as though we are impoverished orphans.
We have rejected the benefits of being a child of God for the life of an orphan. We have inherited the riches beyond our wildest imagination, but continue living on our old budget, penny-pinching our way through life with God.
Don’t Miss the Grace of God
In Grace is Greater, Kyle Idleman quotes Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.”
How could one miss the grace of God?
Too often, we live like a spiritual Hetty Green: We miss the invitation to fully receive God’s grace, to live as recipients of a never-ending fortune. The apostle Paul references the power of God’s grace this in Ephesians 2:1-5:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Paul gives us the Good News about God’s grace in Jesus, but he first has to tell us the bad news. The bad news is that, apart from Christ, we are dead in sin. Not struggling. Not doing our best. Not imperfect-but-better-than-most. Not “mostly dead,” as the old Monty Python skit would say. Dead dead.
In covering up our sin, we are covering up grace. In minimizing sin, we are diminishing the joy that comes with forgiveness. -Kyle Idleman
Paul describes the condition of the unbeliever in multiple ways in Ephesians 2. Before Christ, we were:
- Disobedient (verses 2-3)
- Depraved (verse 3)
- Doomed (verse 3)
In order to discover the depth of God’s grace toward us in Christ, Paul wants us to understand what we are saved from.
Our spiritual condition, apart from grace, is not very palatable. “But, in covering up our sin,” Kyle writes, “we are covering up grace. In minimizing sin, we are diminishing the joy that comes with forgiveness.”
A Beautiful Turn
So how do we get from a place of being dead, disobedient, depraved, and doomed to a place of being saved, reconciled, and restored to community?
God’s grace! Once the Ephesians could understand their condition apart from grace, they could fully realize the lavish acceptance they had received from God!
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
It’s not enough for us to merely understand these truths. God invites us to experience his grace against the backdrop of our need of him. As Kyle writes, “God’s grace is compelling when explained but irresistible when experienced.” That’s the goal of this life—to experience the grace of God.
But how do we go from death to life? How does God’s grace prove itself to be greater than our sin?
How to go From Death to Life
Remember Ephesians 2:1-3. Without Christ, we are not simply sick or struggling; we are dead! And the dead don’t need resuscitation; they need resurrection!
In order for a spiritually dead person to be alive again, another death is required. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has written,
“If the problem is that the settled and habitual behavior of the whole human race leads people on the fast road toward death—the ultimate destruction of their humanness—the answer provided by God is a way through death and out into a new sort of life entirely.”
For us to be made alive, God sent his own Son to live the life we failed to live.
Christ then went to the Cross as the penalty for sins. Whose sins? Not his own—Jesus was sinless. Jesus died for our sins. Your sins and my sins.
And after three days, the rock was rolled back, and Jesus shook off death and walked out of the tomb. Jesus was raised to new life, and for all who believe in him, we too are resurrected!
Now, this is great news.
Thinking back to old Hetty Green, we ask again: Why would we go on living among the dead when we have been made alive and declared to be children of the King?
An Exercise in Grace
God’s grace is greater than not just your worst sin, but every sin you’ve ever committed…
Whatever your greatest sin is, it’s weaker than God’s grace. To put it differently, God’s grace is greater than not just your worst sin, but every sin you’ve ever committed…combined.
Think this is too good to be true? The reality is that even though we barely understand the depth of our sin, we vastly underestimate the power of God’s grace!
How could our sin be greater than God and his grace? Nothing in all creation—not even the longest list of sins you can imagine—can overcome God’s powerful grace.
When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. –Titus 3:4
*1 Warren Wiersbe, Be Rich: Gaining the Things that Money Can’t Buy, 7.
*2 NT Wright, Ephesians: 11 Studies for Individuals and Groups, 20.
The Grace is Greater Journal is a 28 day journey to explore the depths of God’s grace. Study Ephesians 2 and apply grace through daily reflections, stories, and thoughtful activities. More importantly, be reminded that no sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God’s grace cannot transform your heart and rewrite your story.
Share this Post