The Theology of Gift— an Other Directed Blessing

The Theology of Gift— an Other Directed Blessing June 23, 2012

Sometimes it’s discouraging how loosely we use the English language. One thing we hear from time to time on TV is ‘give a gift to yourself’. From a theological point of view, that’s an impossibility. If it’s something you can give to yourself, then you already have it, or have the resources to get it. It therefore falls into the non-gift category. Gifts, by definition are things you give to someone who, usually and normally, don’t have it. And furthermore, there is a character of other-directedness when it comes to gifts, according to the Bible.

Look up the word gift as it is used in the NT. It’s never a matter of self-directed action. It’s never an example of narcissism. This is especially the case when we talk about ‘the gift of God’ which is often contrasted with something owed or merited. God, in case you are wondering, is also not a narcissist. He’s not interested in giving himself the gift which keeps on giving. The essence of God is self-sacrificial love, and that should be at the core of our selves and behavior as well.

Furthermore, ‘gift’ is not a euphemism for reciprocity. If it’s a real gift you are giving, you are giving with no thought of return. You’re not trying to start an endless game of gift exchange. You’re not trying to butter someone up. You’re not trying to impress someone. You’re not making an overture to get someone to do something for you. Real giving is an act of unconditional love, love with no demand, no hint, no requirement of return. It is not an exercise in ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.

Nor does ‘gift’ refer to recompense, or reward. A reward is something given for something you have previously done. This is clearly true in the teaching of Jesus. Jesus says ‘if you do X or Y, then great will be your reward in heaven’ and if you don’t the reverse is true. Gift has nothing to do with reward. You have not earned it.

In a real sense one’s theology of gift should be a mirror image of one’s theology of grace. Grace is undeserved benefit, unmerited favor. It is benevolence pure and simple. Grace is a form of gift normally associated with God or perhaps we should say gifting is a form of grace by which we can imitate the behavior of God, and model the character of God. Think about these things when birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmases approach.

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