Every time I pick up my daughter from nursery, I brace myself for the haul of artwork, junk modelling, and craft launched at me. She staggers out with the stuff, her little face beaming with pride at the presents she’s made us all. Personally I think the clue is in the name when it comes to junk modelling, but one child’s craft is another mummy’s recycling task. Please don’t think I’m completely heartless. My kitchen actually looks like the Tate Modern; I have a ridiculous number of boxes dedicated to years of Mother’s day, birthday, valentine and ‘just because’ creations.
Even if gifts do sometimes require a tactful answer, or a practiced grateful look, we love receiving gifts. Even with the worst of Christmas jumpers, or the scantiest toddler scribble that really tests modern art’s taste for minimalism, the joy is in the receiving!
However, when it comes to the act of giving itself, it gets complicated. We find all sorts of ways to steal the joy and devalue the gift, not least when we give from guilt or from a felt debt we need to repay. Ah man, I am so guilty of this and distort my giving and my work for God. I need the words of Romans 11:35-36 in my life daily:
‘Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen’
When I have filled my heart with worry, shame or pride over my work and deeds, these words bring me to my knees and fill my heart with God’s grace. They tell me that God calls us to give, not as repayment, but as reflection.
A reflection of who God is as Trinity, and who God is as perfectly and fully self-sufficient. When I give in an attempt to repay it’s because I’ve lost sight of who God is.
God is not looking for repayment. For one thing, it’s not achievable. How could I ever repay the abundant generosity of God, the giving of his only Son? What would I give to him that he hasn’t first given me? Isn’t it so beautiful when children plan birthday presents for their parents and then go to the same parents to ask for money; they make craft out of resources provided for them by parents. What could I bring that could repay? Truly ‘from him’, from our abundantly generous God are all things.
These words clear my cloudy vision of God and tell me he doesn’t seek repayment because he doesn’t require it. He doesn’t look to be repaid by his children, but to be reflected in them.
Our giving, our living for him, our works for him and in his name serve as a reflection of who God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally, beautifully loving, serving, delighting in one another. A God who is in essence, who has always been and forever will be, gloriously self sufficient. He is satisfied completely, wonderfully within himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. This is just part of the beautiful, freeing doctrine of God’s self sufficiency. The wonder of his aseity.
Do you see the freedom in it? God doesn’t need us. He has no need from us, no lack to replenish, no loss to fill, no discontentment to cheer up. His perfect satisfaction within himself frees us from the weight of worry that we’ll never be or do enough. He does not need or expect us to supply any need of his because he has no need outside himself. He gives out of love, that we might receive, not that he might.
God gives out of his abundant goodness and love that he has within himself, and into this very same love, this very fellowship that he has as Father, Son, and Spirit, he bids us come. He welcomes us in, and loves us with the very same love. As we give to him, as we give our work, our time, our prayers, our helping of others, as we cook meals for others, as we do the food shop, change the nappies, do the church accounts, take workload away from a tired colleague unload the dishwasher, visit a friend who’s sick, write our blog posts, we are truly giving to God, for ‘to him are all things’. We do it all using the resources and gifts he has given us, ‘for from him…. are all things’. We do so but not out of burdensome duty to repay, but rather as reflection of who God is.
When I give in an attempt to repay, my vision of God has been distorted.
So also, when I give from a heart that is striving in competition, rather than from a heart that is at rest as a recipient, my vision of God is compromised.
As we behold God as Trinity, as we see the loving serving of the Son to the Father, of the Spirit to the Son. As we see the Father’s purpose in bringing glory to the Son, we see no trace of competition within the godhead. If we’re honest, much of our giving to others and to God is done with shame, fear, or pride because we constantly think of ourselves in comparison to others. Can’t we all relate to the child who cries because her sister’s card for Father’s Day is ‘better’ than hers?
We feel our Sunday School teaching isn’t as lively as the youthworker’s, or our prayers not as articulate as our friend’s; our secular work not as ‘holy’ as those employed at church, and yet we carry on giving, but with this nagging sense that it will never be as good as someone else’s. Soon it’s no longer the fear of repayment, no longer the fear that we’re not good enough for God, but the giving becomes about our quality versus someone else’s. We’ve soon lost sight of who the gift is for.
When we give to God, out of all he has given us, when we ‘do’ our righteous deeds, we are giving to our perfect heavenly Father. He doesn’t brace himself for the grateful look. He doesn’t sort into the special boxes, or the recycling bin according the quality of the deed. He doesn’t breathe a sigh of weariness, thinking, not another blog, not another worship song. He is our perfect loving heavenly Father who takes our junk modelling, our Father’s Day cards and rejoices over them, taking so much pleasure and delight in them and in us.
God’s aseity takes away my worry over not being good enough or not matching up. God doesn’t need me to think of fresh ways to honour him because he has no lack.
God’s aseity exposes my pride and humbles me in my offering. He is perfectly, wholly self sufficient. He doesn’t need me.
His aseity gives me grace to breathe.
He doesn’t need me but loves me and delights in me.
When I behold God, all fear and shame, all pride of comparison is taken away. There is no me versus them; my serving versus hers. There is no us versus them in the kingdom of God, because all are one in Christ Jesus.
All is from God, to God, and through God. “All our deeds are buried in Christ’s purity.” These are such sweet words from Calvin. Our smudged scribbles to our heavenly Father are received with pure delight and joy, as he receives them in the name of his Son.
Imagine my younger daughter coming out of nursery with her arms laden, running, excited to meet me, but now clothed in her most beautiful Disney princess dress, heart full of love and excitement as she hands over her treasures. Or imagine her sweeping the floor after lunch, dressed in her royal Frozen robe.
This is us as we give to God. Not dressed in princess dressed, but clothed in the very righteousness of Christ. Our scribbled smudged crafts as it were received as pure, perfect and spotless, as actually righteous because they are given through Christ, buried in his purity, perfection and righteousness.
So work, do, give, live righteously not to repay but to reflect.
Give to God without fear, without shame, in complete freedom, breathing in the grace of his amazing aseity.
To him be the glory forever. Amen.