What follows is an excerpt from my book in revision, “The Genesis Fix: a Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age.” The following segment outlines the manner in which grace comes to us, and how, when it is returned to the world, it grows like an investment.
Defining the kingdom of God through grace appreciated
Grace: a: unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification. b: state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace. c: a virtue coming from God
––Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
To build a relationship with God, we focus on bringing the principles of God to life on earth through our own lives. We can accomplish this by maintaining gratitude toward God both for creation and for the gift of grace, which says we are forgiven for the bad things we do if we confess and turn to God for guidance. The decision to pursue the kingdom of God through faith is a choice of thought and action that can be characterized as an attitude of grace appreciated.
Grace appreciated describes the commitment to invest your life in things that celebrate the goodness of God and the commitment to share that goodness in the world. By appreciating the grace of God in a grateful and active sense, we grow the kingdom of God by extension, opening the way to the fulfilling wonder of relationship with the universe and each other. Matthew 25:40 captures the essence of grace appreciated in the active sense: “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Here the process of acting on principles of faith essentially gains interest on the account for God. The parable of the ten talents in Matthew 25:14-30 illustrates the concept of grace in even more direct terms, comparing grace to a lesson in economics in which grace is put “on deposit” in the world so that it might get a return on investment for God. In the metaphorical sense grace appreciated constitutes a spiritual accrual that can spread to others. This is the “yeast of good faith” spoken of in Matthew (13:33). Just as importantly, grace appreciated acknowledges the presence of free will by accepting our responsibility to seek and distribute the good in life by whatever means we can. Then God may respect our actions and see good come to fruition in us. By any number of means, through education or acts of love we can actively appreciate the grace of God like an investment in the goodness of creation.
Footnote: Interestingly, this same lesson about the “ten talents” was used in April 2006 by televangelist Pat Robertson to teach a literal lesson about economics. The broadcaster used the parable of the ten talents to essentially threaten people to invest their money or risk having it taken away by God. This application matches the philosophy of fiscal conservatives who view the free market and investing as an almost moral obligation. By issuing a threat to his viewers that the Bible requires them to invest according to his will, Robertson leapt clear over the directions of Jesus to concern believers more about the issue of money than matters of the spirit. Robertson’s preaching about money and the use of the parable of the ten talents to teach a literal lesson about money illustrates the often confused alliance between fiscal and religious conservatives. It is a dynamic we see nearly every election cycle in America when evangelical Christians and fundamentalists are instructed, even from the pulpit, to vote for the party that represents their supposed values. People who are fooled by these political entreaties inevitably wind up disappointed–in their politicians and the economy that does not seem to respond to God’s will. Perhaps it is time to consider that grace appreciated applies to something other than passing along political and economic favors.