Gifts and Rewards
By Eli Stutzman
November 1, 2007
When I was a youngster, one of the Christmas gifts I remember most is when Dad gave me a BB gun for Christmas. You may say that was a risky thing to give a fourteen-year-old. Yes, there are gifts that carry risk because of the potential to do harm. What do you suppose would have happened if I had chosen to shoot BB's at a barn window or any of the farm animals? I am certain Dad would have quickly separated the gun from me. However, fear is not what kept me from misusing the BB gun. It was love and respect for the family.
Now I'd like to draw attention to the difference between a gift and a reward. A true gift is given without conditions of performance attached. In other words, I did nothing to earn such a gift. A reward has conditions of performance. Rewards are offered for many things, such as lost items, or information leading to an arrest. In order to collect the reward, I have to do something first. A gift is totally free. If I were to come up with a plan to save people from sin, I would demand some effort on their part. But when God says eternal life is a gift, I believe it because the Bible says so. We are totally unable to pay, even in part. I found it hard to believe at first that could be true, but a close look at scripture showed it to be true. If we were to pay in part, it would become a reward.
For example, Romans 6:23-For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And also; Ephesians 2:8-9-For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
When you are given a gift, all you have to do is receive it. We would tear the wrappers off our presents on Christmas morning and see what was inside. A thank you would express appreciation to the giver. If I have a package at the post office, I have to go there and sign for it, then I have received it. Receiving it makes it mine. Receiving a person into my home means I make him/her welcome into my home and offer to meet the needs of a guest. Receiving Jesus Christ is more than just having a guest. He wants to stay around, not to make life miserable, but to help us to succeed.
Even though we as humans may give and take back gifts, God does not do so. Paul writes...
For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29)
He was writing about Israel's calling and how that is ongoing, and not removed due to bad behavior. God's Word also includes gifts as ongoing and not pulled away from us because of our bad behavior. That sounds risky, doesn't it? Let us choose to use God's gift through love and respect for the sake of our brothers and sisters, and for the giver who is God. When I speak of a gift as great as eternal life, grace comes to mind. I hope to write more on that another time.
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