Freely You Have Received, Freely Give: Grace, Love, and Following Jesus Beyond Transactional Thinking

“Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8, NKJV)

Back in 2017 I was in the throes of a three-pronged crisis. My finances and health were simultaneously collapsing; codependent as they were, neither was willing to go on without the other. At the same time I was trying to keep my online business afloat.

In the process of all this, I’d created an online course about finding and following one’s calling. I knew it could be life-changing for anyone who took it and that if I could sell enough seats, it could save my business, my finances, and perhaps even my mysteriously terrible health (the only cause I could see at the time being stress).

My business has always operated on a principle of giving value to everyone who checks out my work: there’s usually a “free tier” and a “paid tier” for those who are interested in going deeper, but I’m equally committed to delivering true value in both.

So I created a free workshop version with all the truth and then did something which was, in retrospect, foolish: I spent every penny I had left advertising it. The ad copy said the workshop would be “free for a limited time.”

The ads ran on Facebook, where a complete stranger left the following remark:

“And what will you do when the limited time is up? Will you then charge for what the Lord has freely given?”

I remember the sting and shock of those words, as I was literally pouring everything I had into this workshop—hoping for a return, yes, but also hoping and praying that the Lord would use the free workshop to impact lives.

I remember thinking, Lady, the Lord didn’t give this freely. In terms of ad money alone, it was costing me over $2000 to make the workshop available to new people—and that wasn’t counting the time I’d put into creating the course and workshop in the first place, or the hard costs involved in hosting it online and doing customer service.

The workshop was free to this woman, had she chosen to take it, but there was nothing free about it for me.

Freely Received?

I imagine that when Jesus charged his disciples with the words “You have received free of charge; give free of charge,” they might have felt a shock similar to what I felt the day I read that comment on Facebook.

They might have thought, But this wasn’t free.

Think for a moment about the twelve apostles—what we know about them.

We know Matthew walked away from his contract with the Roman Empire to collect taxes on their behalf, thereby losing his livelihood and an enormous sunk investment along with it.

We know Peter, James, and John abandoned their fishing boats, also giving up their livelihood to follow Jesus.

We know the women who followed Jesus contributed sums of money to his work on a regular basis.

The apostles whom Jesus empowered and sent out to preach the gospel were also risking persecution and rejection for their trouble … not to mention that Jesus had ordered them to essentially impoverish themselves for the duration of their evangelical trip, taking nothing with them except the shoes on their feet and the coats on their backs.

In other words, every person who followed Jesus in a serious way was paying a price to do it.

For them, discipleship was not “freely given.”

So what was Jesus saying to them?

A Gospel of Grace

You may have spotted the clincher already. Discipleship was not free. Certainly not. It came (and comes) at a tremendous price.

The price of one’s whole life, in fact.

But what Jesus was offering to and through his disciples — the gospel of the kingdom, deliverance, the power to be healed and set free — they had not earned any of that.

And just as they had not paid for God’s gifts, they had to give them freely, because the people they were going to could not earn them either. These are not things that can be earned, bought, or bargained for.

This matters deeply because we easily fall into the trap of thinking we can earn relationship with God or service to him, or at least that we should try.

We think of ourselves as auditioning for God’s acceptance or working to be chosen. But it doesn’t work like that.

The gospel cannot be bought. The price we pay to follow Jesus — real as it is — isn’t paid in order to purchase something, as though the power and love of God were commodities.

This is why the New Testament speaks, over and over and over again, of the grace of God and the gospel of grace.

The very word “grace” means a gift. By its nature, grace can’t be earned. Love can’t be earned. They have to be given. A gospel that can be paid for, whether by coinage or by martyrdom, is not a gospel worthy of God’s infinite desire and love.

I Did Not Choose You Because …

This idea of God’s love, power, and acceptance as freely given wasn’t new to the disciples. It was woven into the history of their people. In Deuteronomy 7:6-8, shortly before the death of Moses, God gave a message to Israel through him:

You are a holy people belonging to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

The LORD was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (emphasis mine)

If the “because” we tack onto the end of “God has chosen me” is anything other than “because he loved me,” we are missing a piece of the gospel of grace.

Why It Costs to Follow Jesus

There is a cost to knowing, loving, and following Jesus, but it’s not a marketplace type of cost. It has nothing to do with earning or paying for something.

It’s the kind of cost paid not by those who purchase, but by those who love. And love does a very different kind of math.

No healthy parent loves her children because they have earned it. No really healthy husband, making vows at the altar, believes he is somehow buying the love of his bride through his own commitment. He knows that love can only be freely given—that it’s only worth what it’s worth because it is freely given.

He knows that the price he pays is not a token for admission, but a privilege and an awe-inspiring mystery.

The apostles paid an enormous price to love and follow Jesus. They went on paying it all their lives, right up to their deaths as martyrs years after his crucifixion and resurrection.

Yet they always remembered that the love, grace, and power of God had been freely given to them. Jesus had chosen them. He had empowered them. He had saved them.

Not because they paid. Not because they earned. Not because they strived.

Because he loved them—freely and completely. In sending them out as he did, he sent them to make an invitation.

You too can come and receive. You too can be chosen. You too can know the love and grace of God, freely given to you—the life and blood and love of Christ, freely poured out for you.

There will be a cost in loving him back, of course. There always is a cost to love. But it’s a cost worth paying and an invitation worth answering.


I would love to hear from you. Scroll down to leave a comment below!

This is Part 140 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.


This blog, Revelatory Creative, is a labor of love. My goal is to spend time studying and writing about the kingdom of God so that the church—you and me—can find our place within this largely forgotten but central Bible message.

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2 responses to “Freely You Have Received, Freely Give: Grace, Love, and Following Jesus Beyond Transactional Thinking”

  1. Garret Gordon Avatar
    Garret Gordon

    This was lovely. I have been taking care of my father-in-law for 20 years. It has not been overly onerous. He has had the money to have a caregiver come in which has been a lifesaver. I don’t have to do much. But 20 years! I just woke up with the thought in my mind “freely you have received, freely give” and I realize I have not freely given. I have been kind and even gracious, but I receive much more freely from God than I give to him in terms of attention. I don’t listen to him freely talk without having on my mind what I need to do next or where I would rather be. We yearn for our children to have friends and for them to make a connection where that other person is not simply humoring them, waiting for them to finish talking. But I have not succeeded in that. He has interesting things to say, but I don’t give him a chance to “win” by telling an interesting story, etc, that I can give him the pleasure of connection. I put up with him, I am kind to him, but I don’t value him as God would, or a parent would. Not giving him attention freely as I would to my own children. I appreciate your struggle to give even in the face of your own need. I pray that the Lord blesses you abundantly and allows you to feel that abundance in wealth, health, connection to others, love, and life. May God give you life to the fullest. Thank you for taking the effort to show others what God has shown you. Just wanted you to know that I appreciated it.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Thank you for your equally lovely response, Garret! I’m touched by your humility and challenged by your example to continue striving to truly love. Prayers for you!

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