We bought a trampoline. And now, every moment outdoors has been spent on it. Once we save up enough money, my wife and I might get one for the kids.
I’m not the type of parent that buys a lot of things for my kids. My favorite word is no. My second favorite word is not now. That’s two words but you get the picture. But it does make me happy to give things to my kids. Things that they enjoy. They spend hours every day enjoying that trampoline. And they enjoy it so much that they feel like they have to do their part to earn what was given to them.
Last Sunday afternoon, my son came up to me with his hands behind his back. He had a grin on his face and he said that he had something for me. He pulled his hands out from behind his back. They were both together, making one fist. When his tiny fingers opened up there was money laying on the palms of his hand. One dollar and fifty cents.
“Dad, thank you for buying us that trampoline. Here’s something to help pay for it.”
A smile came to my face as I lovingly explained to him that this was nowhere near enough money to pay for that trampoline. But we set up a payment plan and, with the 30% interest that I added, he should be in the clear by his 35th birthday.
There’s something inside of all of us that wants to make things even. It’s the reason why you say, “No, I got it!” when your friend offers to pay for lunch even though you really want him to pay. And it’s the reason why Peter wanted to go back to keeping Jewish dietary laws (Galatians 2:11-16) even after God had told him not to (Acts 10:9-16). We just have to feel like we’ve done something to earn God’s favor. We have to have some form of effort on which to hang our spiritual hats.
But grace doesn’t work that way.
In his grace, God gives life to dead men (Ephesians 2:1,4). In his grace, God makes his natural enemies his children (Ephesians 2:2-7). In his grace, God saves us through faith. And even that faith is not our own doing. It too is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).
You would think that there’s no problem with that. As if we could just say thank you and go on with obeying our new Master. But our natural desires are at odds with grace. We prefer a paycheck from God instead of grace from God because we want something to boast about. But grace takes away any reason for boasting. Grace gives us something better instead (Ephesians 2:9).
I told my son thank you for his money. And then I told him to keep it. After that I explained that sometimes you do things for people without expecting something in return. You even do things for people that you know could never pay you back. And you do it because you love them.
The next day, my sons spent the morning bouncing on their trampoline. A trampoline that they didn’t earn. And with each bounce there was a bigger smile on their faces.
A smile because they were enjoying a gift.
A gift from someone who loves them.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)