If aliens from another planet landed in America, they would probably conclude that all Earthlings exist for 11 months in relative frugality, only to spend the last four weeks of the year madly buying everything in sight.
This year’s shopping frenzy shows no signs of departing from that trend. But the exhilaration to shop seasonal deals masks a subliminal burden that weighs on many of us: the dreaded pressure of finding the perfect gift.
We know Christmas isn’t about consumerism, but cheerfully exchanged presents do go with the territory. Successfully navigating the gift-giving season is a stressful pursuit! How much should I spend on him? What do I get for her? Does he already have one of these? What if she spends more on me than I spend on her?
Sometimes we can feel a similar pressure to match the perfect gift that Christ has given us. In fact, I saw this headline just a few days ago: “76% of of all Americans believe than an individual must contribute his or her own effort for personal salvation.”
It’s a logical mindset to some extent. That’s how the world works. We earn or pay for the things we receive. Gifts aren’t often given for absolutely no reason or expectation, and if they are, we feel the need to reciprocate. We can feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to please God in every aspect of their lives — even to the point of somehow thinking our works contribute to our salvation. But here’s some great and stress-relieving truth about God’s free gift to us:
In the New Testament, several Greek words are translated “gift.” Some of these words are used in a context such as gifts to a ministry (Philippians 4:17), or the gifts of the magi (Matthew 2:11).
However, when it comes to our salvation, the New Testament writers use different Greek words that emphasize the gracious and absolutely free quality of the gift. Here are the two most commonly used words:
1. Dorea, meaning “a free gift.” This word stresses the gratuitous nature of the gift. It’s something given above and beyond what is expected or deserved. Every New Testament occurrence of this word is related to a spiritual gift from God. It’s what Jesus offers to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:10). It’s called the “free gift” in Romans 5:15. It’s the “indescribable gift” in 2 Corinthians 9:15.
The adverb form, dorean, is translated “freely.” Doreanis used in Romans 3:24, immediately following God’s pronouncement of our guilt: “Being justified FREELY by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The gift of salvation is free, and the motive for the gift is nothing more than the grace of the Giver.
2. Charisma, meaning “a gift of grace.” This word is used to define salvation in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT [charisma] of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This same word is used in conjunction with the gifts of the Spirit received after salvation (Romans 12:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; 1 Peter 4:10).
Obviously, if something is a “gift of grace,” it cannot be earned. To work for something is to deserve it, and that would produce an obligation. That’s why works destroy grace (Romans 4:1-5; 11:5-6).
When presenting salvation, the New Testament writers carefully chose words that emphasize grace and freedom. As a result, the Bible could not be more clear—salvation is absolutely free, the true gift of God in Christ, and our only responsibility is to receive it by faith in Jesus Christ. (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Now that’s the perfect gift!
– Ron Reid
(Word definitions condensed from www.gotquestions.org.)
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