Gifts from God
My last post got me thinking about the kinds of gifts we receive from God. The sacrifices that Israel were to give, their gifts, were quite specific. They were supposed to be the best. In fact, a good chunk of the prophetic books are given to chastising the people, often loudly, for their thoughtless, undesirable gifts (e.g., Mal. 1:8). What was to be given to God had to be good.
So when God gives gifts to us, should they be anything less?
Well, of course not, we all think. Isn’t that obvious? “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,” says James 1:17 (NASB).
But what if what we want isn’t good or perfect? What if, like children, we “ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Jas. 4:3)? Does God, then, stop giving gifts? He doesn’t give us what we want in such cases; that wouldn’t be a good and perfect gift. So the choices are for God to give us nothing or to give us what is good, even though it is something that we don’t want. And I think the very fact of our existence suggests that God overflows with generosity and giving. He could not contain Himself, and so He created the universe to share the love that He had. I think He’s still overflowing.
But that means that we don’t always get the gifts we want. Instead of the bicycle for Christmas, we get a jacket instead. Instead of ice cream for dinner, we get brussel sprouts. Instead of a windfall, we get laid off. These, too, are gifts. Maybe we don’t want them, maybe we want to send them back and exchange them for cosmic store credit, but they are gifts nonetheless, and I think the return center is generally unavailable. But they are still good and perfect gifts. They might be initially generated by or given through a sinful world, but God manages to redeem lots of things (Rom. 8:28) if we work with Him. What is He using this gift to really give us? Insight about Himself? An opportunity to see our hearts more clearly? An opening into community and need for Him or one another?
A gift is something given, not necessarily something you want. But the gifts we receive from God, wanted or not, can be for our good if we choose. They aren’t always easy to swallow, much like the brussel sprouts, but growing towards Christ isn’t always easy. Just good.