Updated: Feb 16, 2022
I recently read the book, “Raking Light from Ashes“, a true story of a WW2 Jewish girl’s Holocaust survival. Her parents smuggled her out of the ghetto and entrusted her to a Gentile Polish couple who agreed to hide her for the duration of the war under a false identity. And so Relli Glowinski became Lala Abramowicz.
Lala was a determined little girl. No matter what she did, she always did it with her utmost best efforts. She was intelligent and optimistic, and believed if something was worth doing, it was worth doing correctly.
Lala tells of a time in fourth grade that the teacher gave the class an assignment. Unlike any other time, the teacher told the class that this particular assignment would gain one of them a reward. Excitedly, Lala did her very best, going over her finished assignment several times to make sure everything was right and perfect.
Finally the day came when the teacher announced who would receive the reward. Although Lala was quite humble she knew she had won. She always got the highest grades and was top in her class. Stepping to the front and facing the class the teacher announced, “The winner of this reward goes to…Lala…”
Lala stood up and headed to the front to receive her prize. And then she heard the deafening words, “Kowalski”. Lala had forgotten that there was another girl in her class with the same name. Confused, ashamed, and with tears in her eyes, Lala took her seat. Since it was the end of the school day the other children exited the building. But Lala stayed in her seat, crying. Suddenly she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. It was the hand of her teacher. The teacher smiled warmly and said, “Lala, let me explain why I didn’t give you the reward. You are indeed the best student in class, but Lala Kowalski is working very hard. You are a very talented girl and your achievements come easily to you. Lala Kowalski isn’t as talented as you are. She must put a lot of time and effort into achieving her goals. Rewards are not given for talent, but for hard work. Remember that Lala Abramowicz.” (Taken from the book “Raking The Light”, © by Relli Robinson)
Since I completed this book I have pondered this passage a lot. I have been thinking about it in “spiritual terms.” Simply put, I’ve been comparing the story in the natural to what the lesson would be in the spiritual. (Romans 1:20) Our church group sings a song that comes from the scripture passage Proverbs 11:18…
“Wait on the Lord all ye who are righteous, despise not the wicked for they have their reward”
After much pondering, I realized the comparison lies, not between natural and spiritual, but between the two Lala's. Lala Abramowicz tried to earn the reward by doing her assignment perfectly, and Lala Kowalski tried to earn it by working her hardest.
When I read through the scriptures I do not find anywhere that it says we have to do everything perfectly to get our reward, nor do I find that we can “earn” our way to it. In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.”
In Philippians 3:12 Paul said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Paul knew that he wasn’t yet perfect, but he also knew that someday he would be, and that he would receive his reward, not because of what he did, but because of what Jesus Christ did and who HE is! I particularly like the way the English Standard Version (ESV) words it: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”
Like us, Paul knew he had to wait for it.
We do not live under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:1-4 says, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Just because we live under grace does not give us a license to sin. 1 John 2:1 says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Because God told us to “sin not”, we can rightly conclude that it is possible to live a sinless life. But, if we do slip and fall (Proverbs 24:16 says a righteous man may fall seven times, but he gets back up), praise God we have an advocate!