After working the whole summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I managed to buy my first car, a ’67 Mustang. I commuted to Florida College and, in those days, a music major had to take 21-24 hours a semester just to get all the requirements in, plus stay for extra rehearsals. I was on campus from 7:30 am till about 9 pm nearly every day. Then I went home, grabbed a bite of leftovers, fell asleep across my homework about 2 am, got up at 6 and started again.
That was the year of “the gas shortage.” Many stations closed completely. Others opened for only three or four hours a day—till the gas ran out. Sometimes purchases were limited to five gallons per vehicle so that more customers could be served.
We patronized one particular station in Temple Terrace. One evening every week, the proprietor called us and his other regular customers. Early the next morning, while it was still dark, we all lined up our cars behind the station so we wouldn’t attract attention, and he filled us all up, the station sign remaining dark and the office and service bays unlit.
Eventually even that ran out. Everyone in town was on the look-out and word passed quickly when a station opened, an attendant setting out the sandwich board sign, “Gas Today.” In particular I remember sitting in my little blue Mustang with the red painted wheel wells in a long snaky line that reached from the station on the corner out to the southeast shoulder of 56th Street at Fowler Avenue, all of us hoping we would reach the pump before the owner turned the sign around to read, “Out of gas.”
The supply was small, but the demand was just as great as ever, so I am sure you know what happened. The price jumped from thirty-five to sixty-five cents a gallon. In those days, minimum wage was $2.00 an hour, $12,000 a year was a good salary, and $25 bought a week’s groceries, so a tank of gas jumping from three or four dollars to nine or ten was a hardship.
The rules of economics say that when the supply is small and the demand great, the price will rise. On the other hand, when the supply is great and the demand small, the price will drop like a rock. Things don’t work that way with grace.
Some of the early Christians, understanding how wonderful grace was, had the mistaken notion that since grace covered sin, they should sin more so there would be more grace. Paul answers this error in Romans 6:1,2. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein? He then goes on to explain that baptism into the death of Christ requires a death to sin on our part. We should be living like baptized people, like people who are “no longer in bondage to sin,” v 6.
After a long discussion he starts talking about the price of that grace, a point he had begun in chapter five, and do you know what? The price of grace to us has nothing to do with how much we need it or how much we sin. The price of grace does not fluctuate like the price of gasoline. No matter how much you need it, there is always plenty. No matter how much you need it, it is always free. We will never have to sit in line hoping we make it to the front before it runs out, and we will never be too poor to receive it. The laws of supply and demand have absolutely nothing to do with grace, and aren’t we glad?
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ, Rom 5:15-17.