top of page

"A Promise and a Problem"

The corporate giant, Amazon, is developing a system that allows customers to enter a store, shop and just walk out without stopping at a checkout kiosk or without seeking help from a customer service agent. Amazon calls it “Just Walk Out” technology; the Bible calls it justification.

            It might have been true a few years ago that if you built a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to your door. Not anymore.

            But if you found a better way to walk out of a store with a mousetrap without paying for the mousetrap, that’s a different ball of cheese.

            Kroger thinks they’ve found a better way. They are launching a pilot program to assess the benefits of a store-wide self-service checkout system that works without any human checkers at all!1

            But Amazon is taking this even further. They propose to let consumers shop, fill their carts and not go through any line whatsoever — self-service or not. The corporate monolith calls the program Just Walk Out.

            The program resonates with the New Testament reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans. The last word of the text is justification. “[Jesus] who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” Justification ... just as though we’d never sinned ... just as though we’d never bought anything.

            According to the Amazon website, Just Walk Out allows customers a “fast, frictionless way to shop without the hassle of checking out.” They can “enter a store, grab what they want, and get going.” Quickly, here’s how it works:

            Enter the store: Customers enter the store using Amazon One, a credit/debit card, or an app.

            Shop for items: Customers shop as they usually do.

            Walk out: Cameras, sensors and deep learning tools sense what the customer takes off the shelf.

            Make payment: Customers are automatically charged.

            Now, back to today’s scripture text. Paul’s purpose in writing this letter to the Roman Christians is to teach them how to shop. They need to know that there are some things that God, through Jesus Christ, has freely given them, and therefore that they are free to claim their blessing — just walk out and not worry about it.

            Of course, James and other writers in the New Testament offer a counter-balance to Paul’s emphasis here. James argues quite strongly that we must be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers.”3 He also reminds us that “faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”4

            In our reading, Abraham has a huge problem. God has made him a promise. But it could seem as if it’s a plan that has little chance of success.

            The promise was that he would be the father of many nations, that his descendants would be like the sand of the sea. “He believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So [numerous] shall your descendants be.’” This is the promise.

            But here is the problem. Abraham had a “man” dysfunction. When he looked at his body, he knew it was about as “good as dead.” He was “about a hundred years old.” And then, too, there’s Sarah, no spring chicken, not to mention “the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.” And yet, he still believed in the promise that somehow, someway, he would be the father of many nations.

            Abraham was an amazing man of faith. He took a page from Amazon’s “fast, frictionless” approach to shopping by faith. Abraham:


  • just walked out ... by not despairing of hope. “Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’”;

  • just walked out ... by not weakening in faith — “He did not weaken in faith,” instead, “he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God”;

  • just walked out ... by not wavering — “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God” (v. 20).

            Unlike Abraham, God has not promised that we will be the progenitor of nations. But God has not forgotten us, for we, too, are the “heirs” and “joint heirs with Christ,”5 and concerning these promises, we, like Abraham, can “just walk out.” Here are some possibilities:

            Just Walk Out ... with freedom from guilt. King David, for example, had a problem with guilt. Just read Psalm 51 to see how tormented the man was. It begins, “Have mercy on me, O God.”  He continues, “Wash me ... cleanse me ... purge me ...  create in me a clean heart.”

            The context of this psalm is the horrifying behavior of the king with Bathsheba with whom he had an affair. He arranged for the murder of her husband. The child she bore from their union died. It was a dreadful, tawdry scandal, and the king might not have fessed up had it not been for Nathan the prophet who accused the king, saying, “You are the man!”6

            Paul himself also carried a ton of guilt on account of his pre-conversion terrorizing of early Christians. He “approved” of the killing of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church.7 He “was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison”8 Think about this. He entered houses. He dragged the occupants into the streets. There is incredible violence here.

            But God had plans for Paul as God does for us as well. On the Damascus road, Paul saw the light.9 Later he would write to the church at Philippi, that thanks to the grace of God, he could just walk out of the guilt of his past. “... but one thing I have laid hold of: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal, toward the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”10

            Just Walk Out … with peace and joy! In other words, we can walk out with happiness! After all, if we are at peace and know the joy of having “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,”11 what more can we ask?! A peaceful person is a happy person.

            Peaceful people are at peace with themselves and with God because they have learned to deal with stuff that is beyond their control. They have learned how to forgive and move on. They have learned how to practice self-care so as to be at one’s best for others. They have learned to be aware of peace-pickpockets — those people who are happiest only when they can lift someone’s peace from them. They have learned how to control stress.

            All of this is something Jesus promised, and we can Just Walk Out and claim it! “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”12

            Just Walk Out ... with an access pass to God through prayer. Living without God must be a lot like living in solitary confinement: you have no one to talk to, and you start mumbling to yourself. It’s worse when you start interrupting your own conversation. Soon, the next person you’re talking to is a psychiatrist. Believers are blessed with different options, and they all involve being able to talk to Someone Greater Than Themselves.

            These locutions might be prayers of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication and in some traditions, may involve the use of a prayer aid, such as a rosary. The prayers might be in the form of novenas, meditations or contemplative prayers. Whatever the form of the prayer, it is prayer — a direct communication with God.

            All the great saints of the church were known by their prayer lives. Saints are people who learned how to “just walk out” of, or beyond, the confinement of the world or the pressures of daily life. Consider this prayer by Mother Teresa:


Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.13


            This is a simple, heartfelt prayer that enabled the woman who gave comfort to so many in Calcutta, to stay centered in both her mission and her devotion to Christ.

            Just Walk Out ... with the virtues of Christ! Some of these virtues include, faith, hope, love, patience, temperance, kindness and godliness. And if we’re like Christ, we’re bound to express them in our daily lives.

            Sometimes, we hear well-meaning Christians praying, “Lord, give me patience, and give it to me now!” Or we might catch someone asking for more faith or more love or more kindness.

            When we pray like this, we miss the point. What we need is not more love, patience or kindness, but more of Jesus. When we fail to express these qualities, well … we’re just running short on Jesus, aren’t we?

            Of course, in real life, this technology requires that we have a debit card linked to an account of some kind. When we “just walk out,” we walk out having paid the bill ourselves.

            In our life with Jesus, however, we’re living on Jesus’ dime. He paid the bill already! He paid dearly.

            Now, we are blessed, as was Abraham, to live by faith, and as we do so, it will be considered by God to be our righteousness and justification.



1 “Kroger converting some stores to full self-checkout.” ScrippsNews, July 31, 2023,

2 “Just Walk Out technology by Amazon,” Amazon,

3 James 1:22.

4 James 2:17.

5 Romans 8:17.

6 See 2 Samuel 11, 12.

7 Acts 8:1.

8 Acts 8:3.

9 Acts 9.

10 Philippians 3:13-14.

11 Philippians 4:7.

12 John 14:27.

13 Philip Kosloski, “Mother Teresa prayed this inspirational prayer on a daily basis,” Aletia, September 5, 2018.



bottom of page