Few people knew me better as a boy than Francis Allen, the pastor who led me to Jesus Christ. A fire-and-brimstone preacher in the pulpit, he was a near-perfect example of the gentleness of God’s love outside of it.

Early on, Francis recognized a tendency in me to try to “buy” approval by working harder than expected and doing more than people asked. “These are good traits to give as gifts to others,” he would tell me, “but you should never use them to buy acceptance and love from people—or from God.”

To help me understand this, he told me to read Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:30 that His “yoke is easy”—a statement that sometimes seems too simple to be true. Then, pointing to Micah 6:6-8, he said: “Now read this and ask yourself if there are any gifts you can give God that He doesn’t already have.” The answer, of course, is no.

Then he went on to explain that God cannot be bought—the gift of grace is free. Since this is true, what should be our response? “To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (v.8). I learned that these were acts of gratitude—not of purchase.

Let Micah 6 be a reminder that grace is free and that faithful living is our grateful response.