A long time ago, when I worked as a wages clerk in the Coal Industry, I went to various collieries on Friday mornings to give the miners their wages. They didn’t touch their caps and cry, ‘Thank you for your kindness young sir – how can I ever repay you?’
That packet I gave them was not a gift. They had toiled at the coal face for those paltry wages. The money was their due. If I had kept it I would have been stealing from them.
What is a gift?
So, firstly, a gift is not something earned or deserved.
But secondly, a genuine gift is valuable both to the giver and the getter. It may not be expensive, but it has true value in the eyes of both the giver and the receiver.
Thirdly, a gift is made when the giver has no obligation to make it. It is not like the tax you pay to the Government. That is not a gift – you find yourself in court if you withhold the money!
Fourthly, it is not a gift when you barter, expecting equal value in return. Or if you offer a bribe to purchase illegal favours.
Fifthly, it is not a gift when I sign a mortgage agreement with a bank and they give me fifty thousand pounds. It is a loan – they expect me to pay it back!
Finally, a true gift is never grudging. It is offered freely, joyfully and without reluctance – it is an act of pure generosity.
Among men our giving is never perfect – it never meets all the criteria listed above.
But with God it is different. The Lord Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, was a perfect gift from the Creator of the universe. God loved the world and gave his only Son (John 3:16).
Firstly, Jesus is a gift we did not earn or deserve, for we have turned our backs on God. The Lord Christ is not payment for services we have rendered to God. He was not given in exchange for anything mankind has done – for as sinners we have nothing we can offer to God and he needs nothing from us.
Secondly, Jesus is a gift of immense value. All things belong to God, so he could have given anything to save us. But he chose to give himself in the person of his Son.
Thirdly, Jesus is offered to us utterly freely. We had no claims upon God and he was under no obligation whatever to redeem a lost humanity.
Not a loan
Fourthly, God was not bartering with us. Jesus’ coming was not divine compensation for injuries which God has done to us, for he has done none! On the contrary, we have done him all the injuries we possibly could!
Fifthly, neither did God give his Son expecting something in return. If we have done anything for God then that was our plain duty. There is nothing we can do to reward God for his trouble.
Nor does God give us the Lord Jesus with the intention of taking him back from us again. He is not on loan – the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. God offers his Son to be our very own Saviour and Lord for ever.
Finally, Jesus came as a act of pure generosity (or grace) from the heart of God – who also gives us his Holy Spirit to enable us to receive the Son.
To sum it up, God stretches out his hands to us with the precious gift of his only begotten Son. In the fullest possible sense, Jesus Christ is the free unmerited gift of God to sinners like ourselves.
So let us understand this as clearly as we can. God was under no obligation to provide a Saviour for our world. He provided none for the fallen angels and he was under no necessity to send one to us.
He might have let us all perish and repopulated the world with a holier race. He didn’t do that. He pitied us. He set his love on countless millions, like the sand on the seashore, and determined to save them by the gift of his Son Jesus Christ. In doing so, he delivered him up to death on the cross that we might have life – and raised him from the dead to justify ungodly men (Romans 4:25). When we were still enemies, Christ died for us.
So salvation is entirely of God’s love – free, sovereign, wondrous grace from beginning to end. This theme is on the lips of those who are now in heaven. They are there only because of the most astonishing action of a gracious and generous God.