Where’s The Free Lunch? 

“TANSTAAFL,” the text read. 

That crazy duck quack my husband has on his phone announcing incoming texts sometimes drives me crazy. At almost 1:00 a.m., it’s enough for a heart attack. 

“What is it?” I ask, a breathless panic sounded in my voice. 

The phone is already in his hand. He is sitting on the edge of the bed, his face illumined by phone-glow. I see he’s engrossed at what’s on the screen. 

When he doesn’t answer, I roll over and reach for my phone. One glance tells me the text from our daughter wide awake overseas shows a spell-corrected or misspelled illegible word. I deem the unclear word non-life-threatening, and something that can wait till morning. 

I double check the silence setting, put to sleep the light and settle in again. 

He stays where he is, because he’s been given a puzzle piece which obviously must be put into its place immediately. Even at 1:00 am. 

As the welcome blanket of sleep cocoons my body again, the problem solver with whom I’ve pledged myself awake or asleep, says with Eureka volume into the dark, “There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch!”

TANSTAAFL. Text speak for “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” It was an appropriate response for a text thread that dropped off when our daughter went to bed and picked up again after we went to bed when she woke up on the other side of the world. 

TANSTAAFL mystery solved, my husband was soon snorkeling deeply again in the murky depths of sleep while I lay with my eyes wide, thinking about society, politics and the world stage. Those thoughts brought contemplation of what is truly free. 

God’s grace is distinctly opposite to the TANSTAAFL way of the world. His kingdom runs counterculture. There are no round about hidden fees. Jesus paid it all. He purchased my salvation, without favor or merit. Unequivocal and free.  

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” Ephesians 2:8 NKJV

In the New Testament, the word “grace,”(charis) describes Jesus taking on our sins at the cross. It refers to Jesus taking upon Himself what we deserved, in order to bestow on us the gift we do not deserve. 

To the Greeks, charis referred to a kind act done to another friend without expectation of reciprocation. God, in His grace, offered the forgiveness of sin as a gift although we were still enemies of the cross, lost in sin, and incapable of repayment. 

Salvation through Jesus Christ has no strings attached. This is grace, sin’s penalty payed while we were still in our sins. 

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 5:10 ESV

But God’s freely given grace was a costly gift.   

“‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’”When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:22-25 NIV

Blinking into the dark, with my husband sleeping next to me I conclude, I like the acronym TANSTAAFL. It has reminded me of the best things in life. Little arms wrapped around my knees, children who love Jesus, friends that make me laugh, and the delight of sunshine on my face. 

What free things are you thankful for today? 

I’m glad our children keep us younger by introducing us to text language, even if it is the middle of the night.  

It’s easy to get caught up in the affairs of this life, to forget there is a complete contrast in the spiritual realm. It is good to be reminded of the supply of “free” God brings to each day. 

These open-eyed thoughts brought joy and renewed a thankful heart for Jesus’ free gift of salvation.  TANSTAAFL in the world, but how much more glorious,  JPIA for eternity. 

JPIA. Jesus Paid It All. 


*feature photo by Heidi Van Voorst

20 Replies

  1. John Certalic Reply

    I’ll never think of “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” ever again as I have before. What a great connection to the Gospel. I also love the “phone-glow” description of Phil.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks John! Freedom in Christ is a pretty amazing, and I don’t think about it often enough. Phil’s phone-glow is a real thing.

  2. Lois Reply

    I guess I have always just interpreted it as “someone always pays.” It is not necessarily you–an organization can offer free lunches to homeless people which they can get with no strings attached. But someone always pays. It is costly to someone. In the case of God’s grace, Jesus paid. We are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19).

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Lois for those thoughts. It is a good interpretation. Someone always pays. I am so grateful Jesus paid the cost for my salvation. I’m so glad you shared your response. It’s so helpful to view it like that. Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

  3. J.D. Wininger Reply

    I haven’t both laughed and praised at the same time in quite a while my friend. You achieved it in me this morning. I was so enjoying your message, then came “snorkeling deeply as he explored the murky depths of sleep.” I have to remember that one! Then, as a coup de gras, you brought the message back to focus squarely on Christ. JPIA indeed my friend; and aren’t we so blessed for that sacrifice.

  4. Larry Reply

    Being an old man, it glistens my heart strings to hear again how much we have in Christs atoning death upon a cross, yet I struggle to completely understand the enormity of it all. Your text jargon, says it all..”JPIA”
    Ps.. that is a mighty fine piece of rib eye waiting to be enjoyed..
    Thank you for your wise words or encouragement..

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Larry, thank you so much for your spot on remarks. Christ’s atoning death is so great and impossible to fully comprehend. Yet, such a great place to return to over and over again. And Ps…it was a photo of my daughter’s Christmas dinner. I agree. It looks like it was delicious!

  5. Katherine Pasour Reply

    We are so blessed by God’s grace. “Jesus Paid It All! Amen! And while we were/are so unworthy. Loved the story of the night-time post and the resulting “snorkeling” by hubby and insomnia on your part. But, you were gifted with an inspiring message to share while you lay awake. Thank you.

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Thanks Katherine! You said it. “We are so blessed by God’s grace.” JPIA. Thanks for reading and I always appreciate your comments!

  6. susan kroeker Reply

    Great thoughts, Sylvia! JPIA reminds me of one of my favorite hymns! So fun to read your posts!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Yes, I love that hymn too! Thank you Sue. I really appreciate that you take the time to read and actually enjoy them!! Thanks for the comment!

  7. Charla Reply

    What a great ~ and vivid ~ journey with you! You paint the best word pictures, and you point us to the Artist above all!

    This statement is the perfect destination, “TANSTAAFL in the world, but how much more glorious, JPIA for eternity.”

  8. Terri Miller Reply

    I can’t think of “Jesus paid it all” without thinking of the next line of the hymn. “All to Him I owe.” Love the post!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      Yes, I admit the hymn went around and around in my head as I wrote. I’m glad it made that trek in your mind too. Thank you so much Terri!

  9. Sharon Reply

    I love hearing your stories or ‘real’ life!

    • Sylvia Schroeder Reply

      I love that you love it! Thanks so much. I just appreciate you take the time to read and respond. Hope you are all doing well!

  10. Sue Vogt Reply

    Thanks for your thoughts- appreciate it!

    • Sylvia A Schroeder Reply

      Thank you Sue! I so appreciate you reading and commenting! Jesus paid it all!