It was a lovely party with all the trappings – balloons, candles, cake, streamers, ice cream, toppings and little pointy hats with elastic down around the chin. The birthday girl living it up, basking in the glory and excitement of being celebrated and known. Opening presents. Oh, the presents. Such fun, beautiful presents, things she had always dreamed of having. But amidst all the laughter and excitement she could already sense this niggling feeling of worry. Worry of was how was she possibly going to get out of this debt she now felt she owed.
We’ve all been that girl – grateful for the presents. And we’ve given thanks. And we’ve reciprocated. They gave me a gift, now I should give them a gift. We’ve felt indebted.
So, how does it make you feel when you give a gift to someone you love dearly and all they can think about is how they now owe you a gift? All they can think about is how are they going to repay what you’ve given them? Does it not cheapen the gift? When they try to make sure they give something of equal or greater value, doesn’t it put a pang of sadness in your heart? Don’t you wish they could receive the gift and enjoy it and remember that they are loved?
What do we really do when we live in this economy?
Quite simply, we reduce the gift to a transaction, to an exchange of goods or property.
But can we still call it a gift when we try to repay or even try to prove that we are worthy of the gift?
Now let’s be honest… don’t we do this with God all the time?
“I give thanks to God because of what He’s done for me.”
“I live my life in worship because He has saved me.”
“I sing because I’m free.”
“I am committed to the Lord’s work because I’m grateful that I’ve escaped hell.”
Paul says in Ephesians that we have been saved by the free gift of grace, not by our works, otherwise we could boast; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So what is a gift? Isn’t it something that is given freely, no strings attached, nothing required in return? And don’t we want desperately to prove that we are worthy of the gift? Don’t we want to give God something in return for the gift of grace? And doesn’t that then make it “not free”?
I wonder if all our trying to prove something and all our doing in payment for God’s grace isn’t a bit offensive to Him? I wonder if His heart doesn’t break for all our stubbornness in refusing a free gift. Oh yes, we’ll take it, but we’ll pay Him back. I mean, that’s the least we could do.
Folks, I hate to break it to you – we can never do enough or be enough or thank enough to pay God back for His free gift of grace. I know, it’s really difficult to accept that I can’t do anything or be anything good enough to be worthy of His grace. We totally want to prove that we’re something, don’t we?
You know, that was one of the very lies that the enemy brought to Eve in the garden of Eden. “If you would only eat the fruit from this tree, THEN you would be like God.” Now Eve had already forgotten that God Himself said that He made mankind in His image, in His LIKENESS. Likeness = be like God, right? The truth was that Eve was already made to be like God; the lie was that she had to DO something to attain it. And we’re still doing it, trying to DO things to be worthy of being like God. We are all made in God’s image, so we are already worthy. We don’t have to do anything to prove it; in fact, we can’t prove it. It just is.
We must simply accept the gift. And fall in love with the Giver.
He doesn’t want our stuff, our doing, our falling-all-over-ourselves-trying-to-prove-we’re-worthy. He wants us. He wants you. He wants me. He longs to be with us. He longs for us to be madly in love with Him.
Because… we are His workmanship, His poem that He is writing, His creation that He is still crafting – and He has things for us to do that He planned for us a long time ago. (Ephesians 2:10) Not because we have to pay Him back, but because He has loved us and we love Him back. We love Him because He first loved us. (I John 4:19)
He doesn’t want our stuff. He longs for our love, for a relationship, for communion with us. Anything less, anything more – is it not an affront to Him?
So we don’t give thanks because of His gifts, we give thanks because we love Him. Oh, and if there were no gifts, would we still love Him?
Will we bask in His presence, in the knowing that we are known and loved? Will we let it be enough? Will we let it be everything? Will we say “Yes!” to the free gift?
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT
We have not been saved because of our good works,
we have been saved to do good works!
Not because we owe God, but because we Love Him!