“Good news,” she said. “You’ve qualified for twice as much as you are asking for!”
“She” was the woman at the bank where my wife and I applied for a mortgage loan to buy the house in which we presently live.
Naturally, thoughts of a bigger house, a better zip code, second and third bathrooms, a guest room, a workshop in the garage, and more modern amenities flew through our minds.
I am very thankful today that we had enough sense to balk at her suggestion and proceed with the modest amount we had originally been seeking. I can’t imagine how we could have afforded the monthly note had we listened to her “good news.” I still wonder what she was thinking, but then the word “predatory” comes to mind. It was the early 2000s after all.
Not all “good news” is really all that good.
Slavery is a perfect word to describe what my wife and I would be experiencing had we taken on a mortgage payment twice what we pay right now. Working long hours and extra jobs to pay the mortgage company. We would be truly house-poor. Feel free to sit in the corner over there where a couch should be, had we the money! In fact, I have noticed that any time I do something largely or completely for money, I end up regretting it. It is never worth it. Anything but good news.
The resounding theme of Galatians 1 is “gospel.” The word is used six times in this short chapter, and the phrase “good news” — the literal meaning of the word “gospel” — is used twice more. But back then as much as now, not all good news is really all that good.
I’m astonished that you are turning away so quickly from the one who called you by grace, and are going after another gospel — not that it is another gospel. (1:6-7a)
Bear in mind the context of Galatians (see the bonus post below). The Galatians are new Christians, some of the first converts of Paul’s first missionary journey. But just as quick as they accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ laced all the way through with grace as it should be, they were being told by a group of hardline Jewish Christians — typically called the Judaizers — that good Christians are good Jews as well. If you really want to follow God, you have to follow the Jewish law and customs. Step right up for your circumcision, sir. Stop cooking that filthy swine, madam. Family, stop, it’s the Sabbath. This was the new “gospel” they were hearing, and it seems from this verse above that some of the Galatian Christians were persuaded. Jesus was a Jew after all. God did come first to the Jews, didn’t he? Paul himself was a Jew.
In no uncertain terms, Paul made it clear that not all gospels are truly good news:
If anyone offers you a gospel other than the one you received, let that person be accursed. (1:9)
Paul will tell us more later about why all gospels are not equal. Simply put, some “good news” enslaves. Well, that’s no good news after all. Are we made right with God by grace or by law? Because if it is by grace, you are free. All debts are paid. No obligations are in place. One obeys out of gratitude and love. But if it is by law that we are made righteous, then we are enslaved to a system of our own best efforts, which sadly always come up short. There is always more to do. We can always be better. And we are obligated, for sure.
That’s slavery. And that’s no good news!