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Jesus Doesn't Accept Donations

Jesus answered, 'Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.'" — John 13:8b

Years ago, a church I served on staff hosted a community car wash. Since lots of these events are fundraisers for sports teams or mission trips, we wanted to leverage the concept of free, setting us apart from the typical Saturday morning "we'll serve you if you pay us" car wash.

We did not even allow donations. This would be a genuinely no-strings-attached opportunity for a clean car.

Our deep desire as a church was to impact our community with the gospel. Although we prioritized what was called "lifestyle evangelism," we realized most of our neighbors were not going to walk in the front door on a Sunday to hear the message of grace. But they might pull into the parking lot for a quick car wash on a sunny day.

I suppose we could have passed out gospel tracts or given out business cards with a QR code to our church website. But we didn’t hand out anything.

It really was a no-strings-attached, no-donations-accepted car wash.

There were no expectations for them to give anything. We wanted them to experience what it is to receive.

We discovered that to make an impact, all we needed to do was to show how the gospel is different than what folks assume about the Christian message. Call it pre-evangelism if you like, but we didn’t need to raise our voices to be heard. We didn’t organize a march or rant on social media. We didn’t even collect phone numbers or emails.

We wanted nothing from our community. We only wanted to give. To bless them with a clean car.

We’d do the work. They’d receive the blessing. And remember, no donations were accepted.

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Our commitment to reject donations led to a question.

The driver of almost every car that pulled in for a car wash not only tried to make a donation but asked a question.

“Why are you doing this for free?”

That was all the setup we needed to deconstruct what folks typically think of religion and to explain how the good news of Jesus is different. As Tim Keller taught us, to be accepted, “religion” requires us to pay. There is always something for us to do or contribute, either to earn good standing before God or to sustain it.

But the gospel teaches us that we're not accepted by washing ourselves, doing for God, or making sacrifices for Jesus. We are blessed because Jesus sacrificed himself for us. He is the one who works and washes.

As the car wash illustrates, this is a gift we can only receive—and no donations are allowed.

Eventually, as you begin to live as a spotless son or daughter of God, you’ll come to realize that the gospel, like the car wash, really isn’t free after all.

What is free for us comes at an infinite cost to Jesus.

While our church had to cover the cost of soap and water, Jesus gave his breath and blood.

The attempt at any kind of contribution on our part to show that we’re worthy not only diminishes the glory of grace but insults the cross of the Savior.

To put it bluntly, you will be cleansed from the filth of your sin by the blood of Jesus, or you will not be cleansed at all.

So empty your hands and pockets of any religious pennies you may be tempted to contribute to the washing of your soul. Don't get out of the car to contribute.

Let Jesus wash you, freely and completely, that you may live by grace alone. Clean by grace alone, all to God’s glory alone.

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