The Wages of Sin is Death: What Does This Mean?
The Wages of Sin is Death (Romans 6:23)
I want to preface this post by saying that it starts pretty heavy but definitely ends with encouragement!
For people like me who grew up in church, this scripture has been heard hundreds – maybe thousands – of times. I’m seeing more and more that such familiarity with a verse can actually be a negative and even dangerous thing. Hearing and reading something repeatedly can breed a familiar attitude that says “yeah I’ve heard that tons of times…I get it…let’s move on to something else.” All the while, we can be missing the scripture’s depth, power, and rhema (freshly spoken) Word that God is speaking through it for our lives NOW.
Several months ago, God began speaking to me about this scripture. I hadn’t really picked up on it until I was asked to speak at a local high school’s FCA group. As I began to pray and write out what was in my heart, this fresh insight began to pour out of me concerning this verse. I had been very moved by a sermon that Laurie (our pastor’s wife) preached a week or two earlier which challenged us to “ax” the things God was telling us to ax in 2013. It was such a timely word for me personally, and I knew there would be an anointing for me to share this same thing because it was so alive in my heart.
I quickly saw that this Romans 6:23 verse offered deep truth related to this subject of cutting things out of our lives. Over the years as I heard this verse so many times, I came to have this simple understanding of what it was saying: “The wages of sin is death (but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.)….okay, so we all, being sinners separated from God, were on our way to hell…but God stepped in and changed our eternal destinies by sending His Son to cancel our debt…..Great. I got it.”
While this is part of the story, I see now that there is SO much more! It is very significant that the word “wage” is used. This verse is using an illustration that we can all understand: a paycheck. Most of us understand that a wage is something you earn in return for working an allotted period of time. It’s pretty systematic: you work two weeks, you automatically get a paycheck in return. The paycheck is not some arbitrary reward that your boss keeps deciding to give you; rather, it is a predictable outcome of working. Likewise, a lack of work yields no paycheck. This is not a punishment but an expected outcome of not working.
So to say that the wages of sin is death means that death is the natural outcome of sin. It is simply the established order that creation follows. Sin can yield nothing but death in our lives. Whether we are saved or unsaved, love God or hate God, opening the door to sin in our lives invites death in. By death, I don’t simply mean the act of physically dying (though that certainly is the most extreme manifestation of this principle). Death includes any dark fruit such as discouragement, despair, addiction, hopelessness, shame, broken relationships, strife, envy, hate, guilt, depression, jealousy, cynicism, loneliness, torment…. All of these things are the OPPOSITE of the life that Christ died to give us. Scripture is clear that God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus and was satisfied in Him (Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 7: 26-28; I John 2:2). So what many believers interpret as “punishment” really is not some direct act of angry discipline on God’s part; it is, rather, the natural result of opening the door of our lives to the enemy.
I see this truth at work everywhere I look. There is a deceitful promise of life attached to sin that seeks to lure us into its trap. It’s what entices a man to look at pornography and then entraps him in an addiction. There was an illusion that life of some sort (satisfaction, validation…) would be found in indulging his lust. But anyone who knows truth knows that only destruction is to be found in pornography. It never satisfies, which is why men have to keep going back to it to get another “fix.” The deceitful promise of life is what initiates any substance addiction. The promise is that if you drink this or inject this, your pain will go away. And after a very brief time, that promise is broken and the person is in a deeper pit than he was to being with.
Or what about the falsehood attached to abortion? “You can get rid of this problem or shame or embarrassment by simply getting rid of the baby.” Abortion never lives up to its promises. The shame and guilt grow exponentially when a woman makes her body an instrument of death. Much research has shown that there is a strong link between having an abortion and committing suicide. This example is a case-in-point of death in its most extreme manifestation: sin, allowed to run its full course, will snuff out the life of God in a person.
I also see it in the rampant AIDS in the homosexual community. The disease that often ends people’s lives in physical death is a natural reflection of what’s going on in the Spirit: sin is invited in permanently, allowed to run its full course, and destroys a person. It deeply saddens me. Of course this truth is also at work in the inward sins as well. People are lured into judgment in their hearts and often experience MAJOR hindrances in their own lives related to the specific judgments they have made against others. The same is true with unforgiveness and bitterness; people allow these destructive things a home in their hearts and suffer severely for it. Bitterness is a root that contaminates every single aspect of a person’s life (and can even result in physical illness). I personally have experienced this truth when I have been lured into gossip or ungodly anger, believing the lie in that moment that it will be gratifying and fulfilling to say what my flesh wants to say…and then quickly feeling the guilt and remorse that come with it. Sin never lives up to its promises and produces NOTHING but death when invited into our lives.
I first heard this saying from my Uncle Dave, and it is so, so painfully true: Sin takes you further than you want to go, makes you stay longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay.
The wonderful thing about this truth is that it also operates (and ORIGINALLY operated) for the good! Yes, the wages of sin is death…BUT “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). And yes, the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy BUT JESUS came to bring us life, “and life more abundantly” (John 10:10). There may be a death principle at work, but there is a more powerful, MORE true life principle at work! If the mind controlled by the Spirit (as in, the HOLY Spirit, just to be clear!) is life and peace, then this means that walking in obedience to God and pursuing the things of the Spirit will absolutely produce life in us.
Getting into the Word and inviting God to transform us by it, worshipping God with all our hearts, praising Him with our words, speaking His Word out loud over our lives, singing to God, dancing, kneeling and lying before Him, pouring our hearts out to Him, putting action to our faith by walking in practical obedience, meeting corporately with other believers, and keeping our hearts forever open and connected to Him – these things can only produce LIFE and PEACE. I was talking with my friend, Karen, about this very thing today, and she offered a great illustration. Contrary to popular belief, God’s Law is not something bad or controlling; it is actually an umbrella of protection that covers us and shields us from the enemy’s arrows as long as we stay under it. Stepping outside of that umbrella exposes us to the rain, while staying under its protection produces life and peace.
Just as physical death is the ultimate manifestation in the negative realm, so the physical birth of a child is a beautiful, tangible expression of the fact the God is a LIFE GIVER. But life encompasses way more than just physical birth; it includes restored relationships, peace, joy, purpose, inner and outer wholeness, freedom from bondage, boldness to walk in our God-given identity, authority, radiance, glory upon our lives, healed hearts, renewed thinking, revelation of Truth, intimacy with God, sharp discernment, protection, provision, breakthrough, anointing to live and to minister in victory, and a deep assurance of God’s love for us and our privileged position as His children. There is NO LIMIT to the creative ways the Holy Spirit manifests LIFE in and through the lives of people who are surrendered to Him.
And the awesome thing about God is…He is always pursuing us with His love and is always inviting us to partake of His life. Even if we have given place to sin and death in a million different ways, His invitation remains. But He will NOT force life and transformation upon us. He waits to be invited in. And when we do invite Him in, there is NOTHING in us that is beyond His redemptive love and power. He is willing and able to redeem EVERY past sin, EVERY failure, EVERY act of disobedience, and EVERY bit of brokenness within us. With our two choices (Life versus Death) being laid out so clearly, isn’t life a no-brainer?? Choosing life is an easy decision (or should be), but it is not always easy to walk out. The enemy fights us at every turn trying to lure us into counterfeit life, and so we must be intentional everyday to guard our hearts and to choose only the Life that God offers!
God, grace us to partake of Your Life! Resurrect any place of death within us!