Well... this sounds dangerous.......
I was thinking this morning (another dangerous thing) about Romans 6:23 and I realized that I couldn't remember if it was "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord", or the "For the wages of sin is death; but the FREE gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". well, as it turns out there are about 32 versions of the English Bible and 13 of them read FREE gift of God, some of which are perfectly respectable translations of the Bible (ESV, NASB, NLV). Well, people might wonder, "What does it matter if it says free gift or not?" That is an excellent question! Perhaps nothing.
So, in this sense I think that the phrase "free gift" can be misleading. Man's salvation is not a free process, but it is an unearned one. I believe that when different translators were working on this verse they wanted to highlight that unearned nature of the gift of salvation, but I think that they chose the wrong adjective with which to do it. The phrase "free gift" has a connotation that makes it sound cheap. Either it cost nothing or it costs the receiver nothing which, as has been shown is not the nature of salvation at all. Of course, when a Christian reads this verse that's not what they think of, they understand the meaning. In our lives we work for sin, receiving a wage of death. God, however, has granted us salvation, despite the fact that we have spent all our lives working against His kingdom. The reward of salvation comes to us unearned.
The word used in this verse for gift is Charisma. It means: A favor which one receives without any merit of his own. That word is also very similar to the word used for grace - charis (that which affords joy; goodwill, loving-kindness, favor). So, I'm not sure what adjective you can use in front of gift to convey that meaning. Maybe free is the best word to use, or maybe the word gift is fine by itself. In the end I think we should be humbled by this verse. God has taken those who worked against Him, who hated Him, and has, not only pardoned them, but has made them joint heirs with His son (Romans 8:17). It's always important to remember that "It is by grace (Charis) [we] have been saved, through faith - and that not of ourselves - ... so that no man may boast" it is "the [free] gift of God" "For... while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; Romans 5:10).
*It may be noted that this demand was meant for demonstrative purposes.
** It may also be noted that these are merely my random theological musings. They are not (necessarily) the doctrinal teachings of the Christian church, unless, of course, they are. Nothing I say should be taken as authoritative, because, as a fallible human being, I may be way off the mark. I do think, however, (I would) that my logic is sound and my musings, even if they don't mean much, are fit for human consumption.