“What you are is God’s gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God.” -Danish Proverb
At Christmas and Easter time we exchange gifts, as a sign of goodwill. We give and receive gifts on birthdays and anniversaries; and on special occasions. In our families and social circles, gift giving is customary. But with God, how is it? Our hands never weary of receiving gifts from God, but they are seldom proffered with gifts in return. How one-sided can His giving be?
In Luke 17: 11-19 the story of the 10 lepers is told. Of the ten who were healed, only one returned to thank Jesus, the others, rejoicing in their healing, forgot the healer. The same story is told time and again. We ask and receive, yet do not acknowledge and thank God. Perhaps we are yet to learn the lesson that Gotthold Ephraim Lessing has to teach: “A single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer.”
What have we received from God? The list will run into pages. Briefly it will read: life, health and senses, material gifts, family and friends, and the earth with its abundance. Do we really understand our total dependence on God? Do we realize that without Him we are nothing? Do we thank Him enough? Sometimes we try feebly, but fail most of the time. Yet, God does not stop giving. He is lavish in His giving. He does not count the cost of His generosity.
A poor man prayed to God. God surprised him with His presence.
“What do you want, my son?” God asked, with great concern.
“I have nothing. I need money.” The man pleaded.
“How much do you want?” God checked.
Realizing that this was a once-in-a-life-time opportunity, the man pitched: “One million dollars.”
“Isn’t that a lot of money?” God asked.
“I have nothing. Look at John down the street. He has a big house and a big car, although he does not go to Church. I have nothing.”
“Do you really believe you have nothing?” God probed.
“Yes, I am penniless.”
“Well then, if I give you a million dollars, what will you give me?” God negotiated.
“I have nothing to give.” The man protested.
“Suppose I ask for your eyes, would you give them to me?” God tested.
“No. No. I will not be able to see.” The man argued.
“Let us not touch your eyes. If I asked for your hands, would you give them to me?” God continued.
“Not at all. I will not be able to work. I will be helpless.” The man refused.
“My beloved son,” God reasoned, “you refuse me your eyes and your hands because you value them. You value them more than a million dollars. Just think of it; you are already rich with more than two million dollars. With all the other gifts you have you are a multimillionaire. The problem is that you have eyes, but will not see.”
The vision ended abruptly. The man realized that he was not dreaming. He touched his eyes; they were in place. He felt his hands; he had not lost them. He ran his hands over his body; it was the same he had before God’s visit. He appreciated, rather late, that he had gifts with which he could earn an honest living and stop comparing himself with others.
The story is allegorical, but the lesson is profound. In the words of God: we have eyes, but will not see. We have gifts that we cannot put a value to; we have gifts that we cannot count. Like the one grateful leper who was healed, we need to turn to God and thank Him. Not that we can thank Him enough, because we will always be in His debt. We will always have to play catch-up with Him.
What can we give Him in return for His numberless gifts? Money? No, because He owns the Universe, although He would like us to give our money to the needy. Time? No, because His time is eternity, although He would like us to spend time to comfort the troubled. Effort? No, because He has billions of angels at His command, to carry out His bidding, although He would like us to reach out to those in distress. Will we be giving Him something when we give others in His name? Jesus left no doubt when He said that doing things for others was doing things for Him.
Besides these what else can we give Him? Ourselves. “Give me your heart” is His plea. When we surrender to His holy will and place ourselves at His command, as the angels do, we are giving Him what He wants of us. Because He is God, He needs nothing. But He asks for our hearts for our sakes. When we give Him our hearts we are choosing the highest good – there is no good higher than God. Would the scales be balanced when we give Him our hearts? No, because He is topping His earlier gifts with more and more – each new day with new opportunities is a package of gifts, if only we use our eyes to see. The process will not end; the catch-up process, I mean. Our helpless state, is best described by the poet:
“When I contrive and plot to prove something,
that may be conquest on my part,
Thou still, O Lord, outstrippest me.” Anon
-"Playing Catch-up With God" Ignatius Fernandez is the author of the blog: http://thechildisfatheroftheman.blogspot.in/