Telos of the Gift: The Christmas Pocketknife

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?

Of course.

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.

Advertisements

15 Responses to Telos of the Gift: The Christmas Pocketknife

  1. Jeremy Myers says:

    Once upon a time, Tim took a pocket knife and threw it at a hornet’s nest. And all the bees angrily flew out of the nest and began to sting Tim.

    Hope you have your bee suit on!

    Great post.

  2. Tim Nichols says:

    Jeremy,

    I love you, man. I really do. I don’t have a bee suit, but when the bees fly at me, I’ma slap ’em with a Bible, you bet.

    Got my bee-slappin’ Bible right here…

  3. Great post Tim!

    It’s like Zane always said: “God doesn’t let His children run wild.” There are some He even severely disciplines to the point of premature physical death because of serious and/or persistent rebellion and disobedience.

    But isn’t is it wonderful that such people are nevertheless justified by simple faith alone — and God’s absolutely free gift of everlasting life is truly irrevocable!

    Since ALL believers partake of His discipline to one degree or another, what assurance could ANY of us have if this were not true?

    Answer: No one. No, not even ONE.

  4. I said: “…what assurance could ANY of us have if this were not true?”, i.e., what assurance could any of us have if it were not true ” …that such people are nevertheless justified by simple faith alone — and God’s absolutely free gift of everlasting life is truly irrevocable!”

    I wanted to clarify that because I don’t want anyone confused that I was linking assurance to God’s discipline.

  5. Of course, there’s the issue of the Bema as well. Very few Christians are taught much, if anything, about that. Even fewer have had the benefit of the clarity of Zane’s teaching on it.

  6. Tim Nichols says:

    Gary,

    We agree, and we both know it. I think I just saw a pig fly by my window…

    Seriously — right on. It’s really a gift, entirely free, and God has an agenda for it. Working with that agenda, using the gift as it’s designed, opens the door to life beyond anything we could imagine. Perverting the gift cuts us off from so much of the life that God wants to give us — we endure needless struggle and privation in this life, and enter the life to come reeking of burnt wood, hay and stubble.

  7. Tim,

    Flying pigs? Yes– and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

    I see nothing to disagree with you about here though:

    “It’s really a gift, entirely free, and God has an agenda for it. Working with that agenda, using the gift as it’s designed, opens the door to life beyond anything we could imagine. Perverting the gift cuts us off from so much of the life that God wants to give us — we endure needless struggle and privation in this life, and enter the life to come reeking of burnt wood, hay and stubble.”

    ——————————–

    Finally, I both understand you and agree with you.

    To the stars on the wings of a pig!

  8. Tim Nichols says:

    Definitely a pig. I don’t want to ride a monkey that flew out of your butt. No offense.

  9. Jim Reitman says:

    We’ve come full circle from cats to monkeys and back to cats. You guys read “Get Fuzzy” in the comic strips lately? I absolutely love Bucky Cat, who has a deep-seated hatred of monkeys; it wouldn’t surprise him in the slightest to hear that monkeys are flying out of butts….of any kind. To him they are the very definition of filth.

  10. Michele says:

    Hi Gary,

    I really liked your comment since I’m still sorting this out in my mind. Loved when you said “Since ALL believers partake of His discipline to one degree or another, what assurance could ANY of us have if this were not true?”

    I think this is why Romans says about the gift in 8:12-14 “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”

    I’m trying to understand how the “free” gift puts us in a position of “debt”…. But Tim’s allegory kind of captures the paradox.

    So simple what you said, so true… Thanks!

  11. Michele says:

    Hi Tim,

    I think it might compliment for your female audience if the tweener “Ruthie” gets a make-up kit for Christmas. Her mother has some general purposes for the gift in mind, in preparation for adorning herself with taste in adulthood. But a few girlfriends come over and ask Ruthie to have a turn sampling the products, and before you know it, they’ve turned Ruthie’s four-year-old brother into a make-up monster intended to shock and surprise their mother. It works. She gets the bath started immediately.

    The gift was supposed to be inspiration to be mature….

    Just imagining… great post!

  12. Michele,

    “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–NOT to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”

    Paul is here saying that a believer who possesses the gift of eternal life received by faith alone is no longer OBLIGATED, as he once was (=”debtor”), to ride the Long Black Train of his flesh driven by the devil, but is now FREE to ride the Long White Train of resurrection power driven by Christ– if he so choses– because of his union with Christ in His death and resurrection by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    All aboard!

    Which train will the believer choose?

  13. Michele says:

    Hi Gary,

    Well said. Really like the video and I might steal it for facebook. 🙂 I have the great privilege of reading scripture together with my parents since last summer; Matthew and Ephesians and Galatians. They are new disciples. My mom says all the time since she started, “I’m on God’s train.” That’s the way she describes her joy in spite of correction she gets in every session. She is addicted to feeding the Spirit of God in her.

    That is just cool.

%d bloggers like this: