Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Gift is Not a Reward

No, this is not book review week!

I'm always surprised when I find a biblical parallel in a secular book. I've been reading the "Divergent" series. It's a young adult series, the first of which has been made into a movie, coming out in March (called Divergent). It's a "dystopian" series...dysfunctional utopia, which is sort of an oxymoron to me, but whatever. 

I just finished the second book. It's a very interesting series. But here was this little nugget tucked away in the middle of the book.

"May the God of peace be with you," she says.
"Why would it?" I say. "After all I've done."
"It isn't about you," she says. "It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift."
From "Insurgent" by Veronica Roth

Isn't that a wonderful statement? "It is a gift. You cannot earn it, or it ceases to be a gift."

How many times have we felt that way about God's gift of salvation? We try to be a "good person," but how good do we have to be? To what do we measure our goodness? We try to do "good things," but how do we know when we've done enough to earn a spot in heaven? When do we cease striving for another step toward heaven? How many steps are there?

Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned. Jesus freely went to the cross for you and for me. Yes, He was crucified, a forced death. But he did it willingly, freely. He could have run. He could have had people hide Him. He had "people" after all, right? But He knew that this was part of the Plan. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). God the Father bestowed the gift of salvation, through His Son, Jesus Christ freely on us, simply because He loves us. Not because we earned it.

Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal; yet now God declares us “not guilty” of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins. For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God’s anger against us. He used Christ’s blood and our faith as the means of saving us from his wrath. In this way he was being entirely fair, even though he did not punish those who sinned in former times. For he was looking forward to the time when Christ would come and take away those sins (Romans 3:23-25, Living Bible)

Think for a moment about a time when you desperately wanted to give someone a gift; you were so excited about it, but it wasn't their birthday, or any other occasion for a reason for a gift. So they vowed they couldn't accept it. It's too much. You shouldn't have. Oh, I can't. Because they feel somehow unworthy of receiving the gift. 

But you so wanted this person to have this gift. You were somewhat hurt that they wouldn't take it. You had to coerce, persuade, or otherwise convince this person that it's not because of any reason other than you care about them that you wanted them to have the gift.

Imagine God is giving you the gift of salvation. He so wants you to have it, simply because he loves you. Your response is, "Oh, I couldn't. I don't deserve it."

You're right. You don't. But that's not what a gift is about. We don't give or receive gifts because we deserve it. It ceases to be a gift when it's done for that reason. When we receive something because we deserve it, it becomes a reward. A gift and a reward are vastly different.

God does not reward us or punish us for our behavior, good or bad. It's not like playing Chutes and Ladders. Go up a bunch of steps, slide back down, never attaining salvation. It's a gift. And because we know what it feels like to have a gift rejected, we ought to accept this gift from our loving Father, who wants us to have salvation simply because He loves us.

Blessings Along the Path,

Song of the Day:

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