You Can’t Trade Ham & Cheese for Heaven

In Grover’s First Day at School, the furry and loveable Grover finds himself trading his sandwich (and everything else) in an effort to be friendly.  Maybe you traded sandwiches as a kid.  Such negotiations were normally a kind of “trading-up.”  Joey hates ham & cheese, but likes peanut butter & jelly.  You don’t like peanut butter & jelly and would gladly trade it for Joey’s ham & cheese.  You trade.  Both of you are happy.

Not everything works that way.

If you went to a stock broker and offered him a pumpernickel sandwich in return for two shares of Disney stock, I doubt he would take you up on that.  It’s not exactly a fair exchange.

On the other hand, if you went to person and offered them money to be your friend–most normal people will turn you down.  Some things can’t be bought.  And even though I’m not a big fan of the Beatles, their lyrics were right when they sang–“I don’t care too much for money ‘cuz money can’t buy me love.”

Love–often accused of being blind.  True love–however–is not.  True love sees the flaws and inconsistencies, the shortcomings and ugliness of the soul, and loves anyways.  Because if we’re honest, we’re none of us too loveable.  In our inner hearts, we hold the dark realities of failure, sin, and selfishness.  Perhaps that’s why when we come to the topic of God’s love, we are often at a loss.  The idea of a sinless God loving us and offering us paradise for free makes us oddly uncomfortable.  We feel on unequal footing in a situation wholly unlike any other we encounter in life.  In relationships with other humans, we at least feel the security that they’re not perfect either.  But we don’t know how to deal with God.  So what do we do?  We offer him the equivalent of a ham & cheese sandwich for stocks–good works for God’s heaven.

We  think if we’re just good enough–go to church enough–pray enough–drive the speed limit most of the time–that God is impressed.  After all, we’re good people and that goodness should be enough to boost God’s opinion of us.  Perhaps if we avoid the major sins (murder, adultery), God will let us into heaven.  But you can’t have heaven without God.  And God doesn’t want us to earn Him.  He wants to be loved.  And until we understand that, we will sacrifice in vain hoping to be good enough.

We aren’t good enough.  But God chose to love us anyways.  You can’t pray-give charity-buy-borrow your way into heaven or into making points with God.  Paul says that even if he gave his body to be burned as a sacrifice and he did not have love, it would be nothing (see I Corinthians 13).  Our sacrifices and deeds of charity are not enough to win God’s favor.  He does not want to be won, bribed, or impressed.  Too often we treat God like a kid at lunch to swap sandwiches with to make him our friend.  But God has offered us love and friendship.  He doesn’t want a ham & cheese sandwich.  He wants our love.  In the book of Jeremiah, God describes our good works as filthy rags in His sight.  No matter how good we try to be, we cannot win God’s friendship or even His pardon.  God provided a way for us to be His friend, to get into heaven, to be saved from the present and future domination of sin in our lives–through the person of Jesus Christ.  His love is a gift.

So what will you do?  Love is a commitment.  God offers His to you.  What will you do with Jesus?

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