We know that God gives us stuff. Great stuff, actually. Oceans. Steak. Breathing. Creativity. People. Key Lime pie. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (according to Jim).* This includes our families, our coats, our lawn mowers, our education, plants, golf clubs, etc. Recognizing these as gifts is a first step toward having a heart of worship and humility.
Just for fun, let’s build a hierarchy of gifts, shan’t we? Best to least, let’s rank what God has given us. To build a complete hierarchy, we need a proper inventory (don’t wanna miss a thing). To gain a proper inventory of blessing takes perspective. I don’t know about you, but I just rolled outta bed this morning and started making coffee. Wait: I have a bed? A coffee pot? And I can walk from one to the other? Point: I take much for granted. We see now that we could really build an endless list of God’s gifts to us, and, while it would certainly be to His glory, it would also run the risk of becoming overly religious and, frankly, ridiculous. Seriously — do we really want to say “God, I only sort of thank you for mosquitoes, but not that much. If it be your will, please remove them from the earth you created, whose fallen nature is marked by the pointlessness of these devilish creatures. Amen.”**
Let’s narrow down our hierarchy to just finding the top blessing from God. What do we find at the top of the list?
(Reader: “I bet it’s Jesus… let’s skip to the end before the pie in the oven burns…”)
If you said “Jesus”, you’re right. Also, the pie is not burning, so don’t skip this part. If you’re going to agree that Jesus is the best thing God has given to us, I want to make sure you know why you think so. A nod of the head does not equal critical thought. Because, like you, I’m running out of time and wonder how things are going over at Facebook (fine, by the way), let me just cut to it in the next paragraph:
Paul says “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Cor 2:12). In other words, God has given us a U-Store it locker full of blessing, which exists because God is a good and loving Father who knows what you need, and it’s ready for you to open. But wait: you don’t have the key, nor do you have bolt cutters, nor do you have the camera crew from Storage Wars! Then Jesus gives you the key by His life, death, and resurrection. You thank Him profusely, submitting your life to Him, and then proceed to open the storage locker. But wait: what is this stuff? A box marked BRIGNSDF KWEF. A case of &WERO(UVC. Bottles of &. Something that looks like a trapezoid.
I don’t understand what any of this is supposed to be. I’m glad it’s all free and bountiful and such, but I’m pretty sure I don’t know what to do with it. So… thanks?
Ah, but then the Holy Spirit enters into the equation and begins to open your eyes and help you to understand.*** One layer, one box, one odd shape at a time. What was once written in gibberish (to your mind) suddenly makes sense in your life. What was once shaped like a Tetris piece is uncovered to reveal exactly what you need. How did God know? Why didn’t I see it sooner? WHOA.
God gives. Jesus redeems. Spirit reveals.
Bottom line: I believe that the best thing God has given us is the ability to understand what He has given us. The Holy Spirit helps us understand mysteries that are beyond us. Isn’t that the very best (and most useful) gift?
We have received the Spirit… that we may understand what God has freely given us. What wouldn’t we know if we didn’t have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation?
(Reader: “Not much, I s’pose.”)
*Not the show starring Jim Belushi, but rather James, book of, New Testament, Chapter 1, verse 17, part a
** This would make an outstanding opening prayer (collect) for Worship.
*** I realize that I am tiptoeing around something that looks like modalism here, but I promise to do my best to remain orthodox.
(Lectionary Cycle: Year A, 5th Sunday after Epiphany, Epistle Reading)