December 10, 1996?
According to a story in “USA Today,” a company called “American Express Gift Cheques” did a survey and discovered that about 1/3 of those who receive unwanted gifts, re-wrap them and give them to someone else. Apparently those in a higher income bracket recycle like this more than those with lower earnings. The article did not mention if these statistics include donations made to rummage sales or charity organizations like the Salvation Army.
Receiving something for nothing is not always as good as it sounds. Boxing Day, many shoppers are not making purchases but returning unwanted items. Most of us appreciate a gift, but if it turns out to be something simply unusable or unwanted, we have few choices.
One option is risky—just give it back to the giver. Doing that could ruin a relationship unless that is less important than keeping clutter out of our basements or garages. Of course, we could keep the gifts and simply store them in a handy place. Sometimes people do that and pull them out for display whenever the person who gave it comes to visit. Others just use it, pretend they like it, and hate themselves for their charade. As the survey says, 30% or more dislike those choices and instead find a way to give their unwanted gifts to someone else.
There is one special gift that someone gave me. I kept it. I wanted it. Furthermore, everyone I know who has this gift, also really wanted it. At the same time, I also deeply desire to give this gift to other people. It is the same for everyone who has ever received it. It is too marvelous; it must be shared. It is the gift of eternal life.
Most who do not have eternal life do not realize it is a gift. They think they must earn it or be very good to have it. They also assume it is something that is available after this life is over, that it describes a duration or length of life. Biblically, this is not so. Eternal life is a quality or type of life. It is the life God enjoys. By its very nature, it is a righteous life. It is also rich and generous, anxious to share itself with others. Perhaps God was even motivated to create us simply so He could share His eternal life with someone else.
Genesis 1 & 2 describe creation. The first person was a combination of the dust of the ground and the breath of God, a living soul, another being who had a vital relationship with the One who gave him life. Genesis 3 describes how sin separated the first two people from God and from the “tree of life.” God calls this separation spiritual death. It includes physical death but goes beyond this life to an eternal separation. As Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death...”
However, human sin did not make God want to stop giving away His life. The same Word that spoke creation and humanity into existence one day became flesh, lived among us, and brought a message of hope. Eternal life is again available to anyone who wishes to receive it. That verse in Romans 6 continues: “...but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ...”
Gifts are free. So is eternal life. “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works, lest anyone should boast.” We do not earn gifts nor can we do anything to deserve this gift.
Gifts are received. So is eternal life. “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to be called the children of God.” Gifts are immediate. So is eternal life. It starts the moment someone receives Christ as their Savior and Lord. 1 John says: “God has given to us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life but he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
His life is wonderful. It means no death, no separation from Him. It also means righteousness, fullness, generosity. Because we know we cannot lose it, all who have it deeply desire to give it away.