Christmas Gifts and the Gift of Salvation

One year as my family and I were sitting around the dinner table, basking in post-Christmas glow, one of my boys remarked, “I got all of my presents because I was good this year.” My wife and I both sensed a teaching moment. Turning to him, I said, “You didn’t get your Christmas presents this year because you were good. In fact, if we took a gift away every time you didn’t listen to us or disobeyed what we said in this past year, you wouldn’t have any gifts left. You got those gifts because Mommy and Daddy love you, and we want you to have fun and enjoy good things.” My wife agreed and said, “I know you’ve been seeing a lot of Christmas movies that say that you get presents because you are good, but that’s not how presents work.”

As I thought about this conversation later, it struck me that the way that my son viewed his Christmas presents that day is the way that some people view salvation and other gifts of God. They think they are blessed because they are good. The fact is though that like Christmas presents, God’s gifts can’t be bought by goodness but are rather given freely because of His love. If we tried to buy the presents that God freely gives, each of us would find his or her bank account hopelessly overdrawn, as the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), and all have sinned (3:23). The beauty of God is that He paid the price for our sin (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 1:17-19) and then granted us the beautiful gift of salvation (Romans 6:23b).

There are also a lot of people in the world who believe that you get to go to Heaven if you are a basically good person. However, the Bible describes Heaven as God’s House (John 14:2). Do you invite every basically good person to come live with you in your house? No, the house is for family members, and those whom we have determined to treat as family. No one can force us to open our homes to them through any amount of goodness; it remains our choice to let them in. Likewise, no one will find themselves in the house of God through their goodness, but through God’s will (Romans 9:15-16). Thankfully, there’s no mystery about God’s will; He chooses to invite into His house those who are “in Him,” that is, in Jesus (Ephesians 1:4). Those in Jesus are those who have been allowed to put Him on in baptism through faith (Galatians 3:26-27), having been born into God’s family through water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-5).

Going back to that dinner table scene, after my wife finished talking, I added, “Now, there are things that you could do that would cause Mommy and Daddy to take away your presents. You can lose them by being bad, but you didn’t earn them by being good.” Once again, the same thing is true of the precious gifts of God. The Hebrews writer compared Christians to the children of Israel who lost the gift of Canaan because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:7-19). His warning echoes to us today: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).

I truly hope each holiday season you have is a happy time surrounded by friends and family. But I hope even more that you are currently enjoying salvation and the other gifts God gives to those in His family. Further, I hope that each person in God’s family will remember that all we have has been given to us because of God’s love and that all that we do ought to be done to return that love as best as we can, not to attempt to earn God’s gifts.
-Patrick Swayne
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