“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. – Romans 11:35-36
In worshipful doxology, Paul has just reveled in the depth of the riches and the knowledge and the wisdom of God. He’s asked who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor. Now, he quotes Job to ask, who has given a gift to God that He might be repaid?
Again, the implied answer is emphatically “no one!”
This is an important fact that we as Christians need to understand. All that we give to God–our praise, our wealth, our lives–were given to us by Him to begin with. He owes us nothing for what we give Him. We owe Him everything.
Imagine a child who is given five dollars by his mother. The child then takes the five dollars, gives it to his mother and demands that she clean his room for him. After all, he’s giving her five dollars. Surely she owes him that service.
See how silly that is? Yet that’s how humans often treat God. When they suffer, they list off all of these good deeds they have done. They don’t deserve this hardship, they say. But in their “giving” to God, they’re just using what they themselves were given by Him. He owes them nothing.
The Savior illustrates it this way:
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
God never owes us anything. We have only done our duty.
Furthermore, not only do humans only do their duty, they fail at it. In fact, no unbeliever has done his duty. Romans 3 says that there is no one righteous and that no one does good. People do apparently good things, but they do it with the wrong heart, so it’s not actually good at all. So not only are we undeserving of God’s favor; we are ill-deserving. We actually deserve God’s wrath. If we want to talk about what God “owes” us, it is eternal punishment for our sinfulness.
Praise God that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
He is the One who knows all things, does all things, deserves all things, for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.