When somebody offers you a free car, just say yes.
That’s what I learned in 2017.
My old truck wasn’t going to last much longer. There was enough rust on the frame that a well-timed speed bump may have severed the entire vehicle in half, and my $12-dollar-an-hour job couldn’t fund any more $2000 repair bills.
But it also couldn’t fund a new car.
So I risked it every day, until a friend texted me a few days before Christmas.
“Hey man, my parents have an old car they’re trying to get rid of and asked if you want it.”
Uh, yes. Yes I did.
Very much so.
Two weeks later I was in their garage signing over the title, unsure of what to do other than repeat the words thank and you every few seconds.
The English language needs something stronger than, “Thank you.” You say thank you when somebody loans you a few dollars or holds the door open at the gas station. Not when they’ve given you a Ford Escape!
Anyway, I was crazy grateful for that car.
I didn’t care that the AC was broken. I didn’t care that it had 250,000 miles on the odometer. I didn’t care that the grill was missing. It drove in a straight line down the road and didn’t break down.
That was all I needed.
Today, I believe that car was an actual gift from God.
Though at the time I simply thought it was a crazy coincidence. A neat story to tell about a generous offer and exceptionally good timing.
I would have said that God had bigger things to worry about than my car situation—things like world famines and disease and extreme poverty. Certainly with all that on his plate, my car wasn’t worth his time. Plus, it felt good to take credit for something like that working out. I liked claiming the story as my own.
The more I learn about God, however, the more I realize I was wrong. He never stops giving us things, big and small. Without any constraint of time, he can move through as many circumstances as he wants. All at once.
The car was small, in comparison to other issues in the world and in my life, but it wasn’t insignificant.
James wrote that “every good and perfect gift is from above.”
Seems like a broad category to me.
He gives us simple things like ice cream and good music and bonfires.
He gives us best friends and crazy families and college football.
He gives us peace in the midst of chaos, rest in the face of exhaustion.
He gives us Life and Hope when all we see is death and hopelessness.
James even writes in that same letter that we should be thankful when we face trials and hardships, too. Because he is actively providing things for us on the peaks and in the valleys.
God’s gifts are everywhere.
The problem is not whether he is giving us things.
The problem is our lack of receiving.
Jesus is walking through a village one day when ten men with leprosy cry out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Jesus looks at them and says, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”
So they do.
And on their journey, before they see a single priest, the diseases lift from their skin. One by one their open wounds close together. Infection is destroyed. Years of scars fade away. It’s an actual miracle happening before their eyes.
Can you imagine the joy of that moment? A lifetime of physical and emotional pain, healed in an instant. Life was brand new again.
Jesus had given them an incredible gift.
Moments later, one of them scrambled back to Jesus and fell at His feet to thank Him and praise God for this miraculous healing.
Jesus—moved by the man’s gratitude—looks around to call out the elephant in the village.
Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?
So often, we are those nine guys.
When God gives us gifts, instead of turning back to him with our gratitude, we:
- Take all the credit — We desperately want to believe we are responsible for the good things in our lives. Giving God the credit feels like our efforts are wasted.
- Ignore them — How many things have you been given that you never recognized as a gift at all? We’re either too busy or too out-of-step with God to realize what he is doing.
- Downplay them — We’ll accept something as a gift, but remain dissatisfied because it’s not exactly what we wanted. Picture the man who scores his dream job and immediately says, “Yeah, but it doesn’t pay as much as I wanted.”
God is like a proud Father on Christmas morning who worked year-round to provide for his child’s needs, and still finds joy in bringing them more.
As a toddler, the child didn’t know to thank his Father for the gift. He didn’t even know what a gift was.
One year, when the child has matured, he looks up from the gift—full of gratitude—and whispers, “Thank you, Dad.” Recognizing that the Giver has sacrificed so much because of a deep love for the child. In that moment, a new phase of the relationship begins as the child learns to appreciate both the gifts and the Giver in a whole new light.
When we express our gratitude, we step into that deeper relationship with Him.
When we feel entitled to the gifts—or complain about their inadequacies—we push Him away.
Let’s be the gracious child today.
Let’s be the man with leprosy falling at the feet of the Healer.
Let’s choose to turn back.