If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matt. 7:11
I wanted to give Matt a really special graduation gift, because he had been a really special person in my life. I was his babysitter for a few years in high school, and his parents were my best friends. When I got married, Matt was the ring bearer. He also caught the garter that day, and threw it right back. When Matt turned 4 years old, he had a one-word answer for everyone who asked what he wanted for his birthday: “Sword.” He was passionate about swords, then.
I thought that probably had some sort of symbolism as he graduated from high school… Ephesians 6:17, John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, and stuff like that. So I got on eBay and got Matt a Braveheart replica sword for graduation. Also, I’m pretty sure I wrote some deep, meaningful (profound, even) thoughts in a letter. That letter has probably been recycled 5 times since then, but the sword is a different story. Matt wore that sword around with his buddies that summer, threw watermelons in the air and sliced them in two when they came down, and had other memorable adventures. He still has it today. That was a good gift.
The fountain pen is not. Neither is the “Washing-a-ton University” personalized laundry bag, the book 101 Things to Do with Ramen Noodles, the hands-free umbrella, the “Fresh Wave Stinky Dorm Kit,” The Naked Roommate: and 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, a silicone USB flash drive bracelet, a nose shower gel dispenser (pick me!), or even a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I would take the time to explain why, but it’s not List Wednesday, and we have more spiritual matters to discuss. The point is, 9 times out of 10, cash is going to be your best option. It was the favorite gift of the class of 1987, it is the favorite gift of the class of 2012, and it will likely be the favorite gift of the class of 2072. Why mess with what works?
We know how to give good gifts. We might stray from the course from time to time, because we want to be different and unexpected, but we know.
The disciples who had been listening to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount might have questioned His definition of “good gifts.” In Matt. 5-7, Jesus had said a lot of really heavy things…blessed are those who are poor in spirit; blessed are those who are persecuted; if your righteousness doesn’t surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you won’t enter heaven; hatred and lust bring God’s judgment just like murder and adultery; if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out; turn the other cheek; give to anyone who asks; love and pray for your enemies; if you refuse to forgive others, God won’t forgive you; treasure eternal things, not earthly things; you can’t serve both God and money; don’t worry about stuff; and don’t judge people. The disciples’ heads must have been spinning. They had to be thinking, “Hey, thanks, Jesus. That’s just what we were hoping to hear when we climbed all the way up here and sat down on these rocks. Okay, we should probably just go back to fishing now.” (Well I know for sure the sarcastic disciples were thinking that, anyway.)
Jesus knew the difficulty in His commands, but He didn’t leave His disciples or us helpless. When He followed all of those instructions up with “Keep asking, and it will be given to you…whoever asks receives,” He wasn’t saying that He’d give you anything you pray for. People like to think that, but that’s only because we think the nose shower gel dispenser might be kinda cool for awhile. Most of the time, we don’t know what we need, and we’re often even confused about what it is we want. No, Jesus was saying that if our desire is to follow Him, He’ll give us exactly what we need to do that well. He called His gifts to us, “good things.” And here’s the best part – Luke recorded the same account, and he tells us what those “good things” are – the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22-23).
Jesus doesn’t give you difficult commands to watch you fail. He sets the bar at holiness and then gives you the fullness of His Spirit – the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to live a sinless life (Acts 10:38; Heb. 4:15) and who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11) – so that you can do those things that bring glory to Him.
Whatever it is you’re doing, wherever it is you’re headed – off to college for the first time, parenting, being a friend, being married, being single, serving at your church, working at a job you don’t love – He’ll give you what you need to do it well. Just ask Him. He’s the best gift-giver ever.