Whether we realize it or not, every good thing in life is actually a gift. It includes the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the achievements we make, the time we have, the air we breathe, and so on. We know that life is a gift because we can’t intentionally do things like growing our own hairs, circulating our bloods, or digesting foods in our stomach, etc. What has been given to us which is not a gift?
But some of us might think, “I achieve success because I work so hard.” Hold on… isn’t it the ability to work hard in itself is a gift? Isn’t it a gift that our body organs can function well so that we can work and do normal activities every day? Isn’t it life in itself is also a gift? Therefore, if life (and every good thing in life) is a gift, then so is salvation (eternal life). Can we now confirm what the Bible says?
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NIV)
It is clearly said that eternal life is the gift of God. The Bible doesn’t say “the reward of God is eternal life.” So, what’s the difference between gift and reward? To answer it, and to understand why salvation is a gift, here we’ll see from (at least) three characteristics of a gift:
1. Gift is given out of the giver’s generosity
In contrast with reward, which requires labors (hard-work) from the receiver, gift is given out of the giver’s love in the first place. Gift is given without a prerequisite while reward is given as a performance-based acceptance. When someone gives you a gift on your birthday (or any special day), that means you are loved – you don’t need to work or “do some good” to receive that gift. Have we been generous to others, or have we experienced the generosity of others? Have we realized that, in fact, most of the organizations (or activities) can only survive by “donations”? Research activities can progress if the government commits to support (or sponsor) them. Missions can thrive if the “stakeholders” are willing to contribute financially (and prayerfully). Even businesses can only run well if the customers are “generous” enough to buy their products. Humans are needy of the others’ generosity. Ultimately, we can only live (and be saved) by the gracious love and mercy of the True Giver, who is the Source of everything.
2. Gift can be accepted or rejected
There is only one requirement to accept a gift: trust the giver. It is up to you to accept or reject any gift – you can reject the gift, for example, if you don’t trust the good intention of the giver. You might question the giver’s motive and sincerity (or perhaps you might even feel undeserved to receive it). To accept a gift demands faith, and to have faith demands humility. When we accept gifts, sometimes we have to acknowledge our “wants” or “needs.” Imagine you have a very sensible friend who recognizes your needs of something and then he/she gives you exactly what you need. Would you humbly accept the gift, or pretend to be strong and say, “I can earn it by my own efforts and I will do it my way”? Salvation can’t be earned by our own hard-work – it is a perfect gift from the Creator of the universe, given out of his perfect love for us. The only way to receive such a wonderful gift is by humbly putting our faith in him.
3. Gift is not your own and thus demands a responsibility
If life is a gift, can then we do anything we want with it? Can we have a limitless control over our own life? Obviously not. You see that even though the gift is freely given, we should treat it with respect. Imagine what your best friend might feel when he/she found that you didn’t treat his/her gift respectfully? To treat the gift carefully is to show a true appreciation to the giver. The gift of salvation, if accepted by faith, should also be treated with honor. One can’t simply take it for granted. While it is true that we don’t need to “work for” the gift of salvation, we still have to “work out” the gift of salvation. As an illustration, suppose you receive a computer as a birthday gift from your parents. You don’t need to pay anything for it, but you still have to be responsible for taking care of it. If necessary, you should clean it every day and make sure it works well. You are expected to make the most and get the best out of it. At the end of the day, your parents would be so much happy if the computer can give maximum benefits for you. Knowing that life (and salvation) is a gift, we would please our Heavenly Father by making the most of every moment to live according to his will. Since we’ve been given two wonderful gifts – life and salvation, our expressions of gratitude are to love God and people, by sharing these gifts to others.
Vancouver, April 30, 2018