Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death. I know that most who read that passage understand it to mean that without salvation through Christ, left to our own sinful devices, we will suffer not eternal life, but eternal death. In our fallen state, we alone, cannot atone for the sins we have committed. God’s standard requires more than we, on our own, can provide. God’s standard was set forth in the Ten Commandments and through the Mosaic Law. But alas, who could keep up? And even those who made the claims that they had, would fall to the truth put forth by Jesus (the very fulfillment of the Law). Jesus took the law to a higher plane… He said to the religious leaders that while the law said no one should commit adultery, that even the man who looks lustfully at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5). Why? Because while man looks on outward appearance… God looks at the heart. For as a man (or woman) thinks in his (or her) heart, so is he (sh…I mean, you get it)(Proverbs 23:7).
So as a “sinner saved by grace through faith”, how do I look at Romans 6:23 now? Well, in grateful humbleness, of course. I have been saved from myself… from those fleshly desires that seem to keep me knocked off focus and from being all I can be. To know that God, in His infinite wisdom, looked upon the humanity that He loved and could not bear the separation that sin caused, made a way where there seemed to be no way, and paid the price for our sin through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, is just more than my mind can really process.
I don’t believe that lets us completely off the hook, however. I think that there is another way to see Romans 6:23, post salvation. Jesus is the atonement for all of my sin. All of it. My past sin, the sins I will bow to today, and the sins I will commit in the future. The bill is paid in full for it all. But… the wages (or product) of my sin, our sin, still brings death. Maybe not eternal death, but death in the here and now.
Sins we commit can mean the death of a relationship. The death of trust. The death of hope. I am forgiven of my sin, but I am still responsible for my actions as they affect those around me. A husband addicted to pornography will watch the death of desire for his wife. A wife in an adulterous affair can see the death of her marriage. The thief or liar watches the trust others placed in them die. When we choose righteousness we choose life. When we choose sin, we offer up death. There has never been an instance when sin brought life to a situation. Our enemy loves to offer up cold, empty substitutes for the life God makes available to us. The devil entices with promises of freedom and uninhibited expression of desire. But even as we reach for the promised carrot dangled before us, the light of life fades, and we fall to the bondage and death that sin always brings.
The wages of sin is death, and thanks be to God that those who follow Jesus no longer have to settle their own accounts. But that does not absolve us of the effects that our sin has on those around us. It still brings death. Look around. It won’t take you too long to find those who are suffering at the hand of someone else’s sin. Salvation does not give us license to sin, it gives us freedom from our sin… for us as well as for those close to us.