Many people associated with the Free Grace movement are familiar with The Hungry Inherit, a book by Zane Hodges. It was written over fifty years ago and centers around the account of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. A summary of the book’s main point is: Those who are thirsty for eternal life receive it completely for free by believing in Christ; those who are hungry for rewards receive them by doing the works God demands of believers (John 4:14, 32).
Zane points out that John makes a distinction between being thirsty and being hungry. This distinction is between the gift of eternal life and rewards in the kingdom. The book’s title comes from this distinction. The “hungry” are those who want to be great in the kingdom. They hunger after it. They will not only enter the kingdom (as all believers will) but will also inherit it. They will own–be rich in–the kingdom; that will be their inheritance. Hence, the hungry inherit.
Since many readers of our blogs are familiar with this teaching, I thought I would relate a true story that you may or may not find to be a good illustration of such things. I was visiting a couple that had been married for a number of years. I asked how they met. The husband said that they met at their church while in high school. At their first meeting, his future wife made it clear that she did not like him. At that time, this was of no great concern to him.
In very short order, however, he determined that his life would be over if he did not marry her. She was the greatest person he had ever met. As a very young Christian, he fervently prayed to God that He would change this young lady’s mind concerning her feelings toward him. He wanted her to think about him the same way he thought about her.
But he took it a step further. To show the Lord the seriousness of his devotion to this girl, he decided to fast every Saturday. He did so for five years.
Whatever methods he used worked. They have been married almost two decades and have three wonderful children. They are very active in their church.
While they were telling me this story, I noticed a large photo of them taken on the day of their wedding. Both have huge smiles. I commented that while they looked so happy in the picture, I understood what was really happening. The husband was certainly happy to be married, but he was hiding his pain. After all, in that picture he was starving. He had spent one-seventh of the last five years of his life going without food.
He had a great response. He said, “You are right. But remember, the hungry inherit!” When he said that, I viewed his wide grin in the photo in a new light.
That was classic. We all burst out laughing. All three of us knew what he meant. He had worked hard to make the young lady his wife. That work had paid off. He had been greatly rewarded. The woman of his dreams had become his wife. All kinds of blessings flowed from that. He hungered for that reward and even went physically hungry because he thought it would help him get the riches he desired.
All illustrations of Biblical truth fall short in some way. I am telling you this one in case you ever find yourself talking to somebody about the woman at the well and the people of Samaria. You might think it is a little corny; maybe you can think of a better illustration of Hodges’ point about John 4. But I plan on using it. In Free Grace circles, at least, it is too funny to pass up.