Once upon a time there was a man named Dan. God was kind to Dan, and in due time gave him a wife, and then a son — a red-headed, freckled bundle of mischief named Russell. Russell could barely sit still. They had to hold him back a year in school because he wasn’t learning to read — not because he couldn’t, or from any lack of intelligence, but because he just had such a hard time focusing. He didn’t start to like reading even a little bit until Dan introduced him to Tom Sawyer and Br’er Rabbit. He was that kind of boy.
When Russell was 8 years old, Dan got him a pocketknife for Christmas. Russell thought it was the most wonderful thing he’d ever seen: a bright red Swiss Army Tinker. Large blade, small blade, bottle and can openers, screwdrivers — flat and phillips heads! — a leather punch…the list just went on and on.
Dan set Russell up with a chunk of balsa wood, a cardboard box, and an old leather belt so he could cut things, and Russell had the most wonderful afternoon of his young life reducing all three items to tiny, tiny pieces. As far as Russell was concerned, heaven had come to earth. Sitting at the kitchen table with an old cutting board, surrounded by bits of leather, wood and cardboard, Russell wondered what he could do next with his knife. He looked down at the scarred surface of the cutting board in front of him, a hash of intersecting lines, and the idea struck him. He went to work, and soon the cutting board sported a crudely carved “Russell” in one corner.
Flushed with success, Russell looked around the room, and his eyes lit on the china cabinet. It towered to the ceiling, easily twice as tall as he was, a solid rosewood and glass giant looming over him, a tiny David with a Swiss Army knife. Russell giggled. Wonder how Goliath would feel about having “Russell” carved into his foot?
Still giggling, Russel lay down on the floor in front of one of the massive claw-feet and went to work….
Now: was the pocketknife a gift? Was it free?
Does ‘gift’ imply that Russell was free to do whatever he wanted with it?
Of course not.
Russell’s father had some general purposes in mind for the gift, and vandalism was a sin against the intentions of his father, the giver. Russell failed to honor his father.
Of course, had Russell been better educated, he might have thought to argue: “Hey, Dad, wait just a minute! I thought this was a gift! You can’t back-load a gift with a whole bunch of rules. Was it really free, or wasn’t it?”
Happily, Russell’s foolishness was just the ordinary kind, and hadn’t been raised to a fever pitch by a theological education.