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Have you ever given gifts to an arrogant person who feels entitled? Have you ever given gifts to a humble person who feel they in no way deserve the gifts you give? I'd love to hear your take away from that experience.


Can a person cause harm with giving someone gifts?


I would argue most definitely you can. For example, if I give a $100 to a drug addict who's simply not had his next fix because he's broke, that $100 enables him to harm himself more. Being broke was a better state for them then being enabled to drive themselves further into their addiction.


Gifts hurting people is a reality accepted by the general populace. This is why we have background checks before people are allowed to own guns, why prescriptions drugs require a doctors note before you can possess them, why there are age restrictions before you're allowed to drive, why toys have choking warnings on them for toddlers. A car is a great gift, but to a 10 year old, not so much. Legos are wonderful, but for an infant it's a choking hazard.


Even food can be a bad gift. Having worked for the PD..the donut/cop joke is for real.. In addition to that, given the stress of the job and the appreciation of the spouses of those who worked at the PD, often my fellow crewman brought in sheets of cookies, tins of cheesecake, boxes of donuts (of course), etc. Here's where that sucked. It's in everyone's best interest that an officer be in shape. For the officer, for his family, and for the public he has sworn to serve and protect. Yes it is my responsibility to turn down those treats (and of course I acknowledge they are given out of love). I personally cannot eat dairy, wheat, or egg, and I love to eat things with dairy, wheat, and egg (I'm staring at you Costco cake!). Eating those things makes me swell up, causes me pain, and I break out in hives all over. So is giving me a Costco cake a bad gift, well I gotta tell you, it's not just the temptation of the deliciousness that I have to fight, it's also the heart break of turning down what you likely intended as a very loving gift that makes me sad. So I either have to fight what my stomach wants, reject your gift (or accept it and throw it in the trash when you're not looking which is equally heart breaking), or I have to eat it and swell up, break out in hives, and stay close to a bathroom (it takes me a couple weeks to recover from when I stray from my diet).


So knowing this about me now, if you were fond of me, wanted to love up on me, would you drop by and give me a Costco cake? Nope. Not if you were loving me you wouldn't. Why? Because cake from Costco is horrible? We all know that's not true, but rather because you know such a gift would leave me in turmoil over what to do with it and you loving me wouldn't want to put me through that.


Now imagine what your Heavenly Father knows about you. In His perfect infinite knowledge He knows you to depths you're not capable of knowing (after all when is the last time you counted the hairs on your head? [Matt. 10:30]). In His perfect love He is the most motivated to provide you with what's best for you, not necessarily what you want the most, but what's best for you. God's infinite knowledge, limitless power, and perfect love make Him the perfect gift giver, but what you may not realize is sometimes that gift is not in the form of a new house but a broken hip (Gen. 32:25), sometimes that gift isn't riches but rather poverty (Mark 10:25), sometimes that gift isn't more money but rather time well spent with swine (Luke 15:16), sometimes it's not for God to bless what you're doing but rather to confuse you in it (Gen. 11:7), to let you spend time kicking against the goads (Acts 26:14). Sometimes what is best for you is that which brings you to despair for even the disciples were brought so low they were suicidal, but for good reason (2 Cor. 1:8-9).


Does God derive pleasure from pain? Absurd, absolutely not, that would be sadistic. God's heart is what is best for you. God often allows affliction not because He enjoys afflicting but rather the good that said affliction will produce in your life. Consider the story of the prodigal son but allow me to point out something that you may have not seen in that story before.


11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.


Did the father love the son in this story? Undeniably yes and with a love unmatched. The father loved his son so much that he didn't even let the prodigal finish his penance speech before cutting him off (v22) and hollering to his crew to bring out the best everything and restore his son to full status, further more, at such joy the father throws a party and feasts on the coveted livestock (luke 15:29-30) in honor at his son's return.


With such great and unmatched love, notice what the father did not do that I see many parents error in doing today. We often pay attention to what the father did such as sitting on the porch watching the horizon which I imagine was a daily thing for the father and one he did so fervently that when his son return unannounced it was the father who spotted him "while he was still a long way off" and ran to him, embraced him, kissed him. But notice what the father did not do, though I'm sure his thoughts were on his son daily, hourly, moment by moment. When the son made a choice to pursue what was bad; what the father did not do was follow him around bailing him out. In fact, verse 16 says nobody was giving the son a handout.


Imagine what state of mind the son had to be in to reach this state where he even envied the food the swine were eating. He must have been quite stubborn or not believing of the father's love to get so deep in the mire. However it was there, in the muck where the son finally "came to his senses" (v17). Obviously the son didn't have his wits about him when he thought life was to be found in loose living. It took much time of poverty and suffering before the son changed his mind (which is the definition of repentance: to change one's mind).


Now imagine if the father kept following up behind the son paying of the son's bar tab, calling ahead to make hotel reservations, shipping food and clothing to him regularly. That would have been detrimental. Fortunately this father was not only loving but very wise (sound like Someone you know?). If the father kept absorbing the ramifications of the son's actions then the son may have not had that moment of clarity brought about by his self imposed destitute state and the envying of the swine's food. Without that wake up moment the son may have kept up on his "loose living" (v13).


My dad once said to us kids if you ever go to jail we're not bailing you out, you earned it. I knew he said that and meant that for our sake. Can you imagine the harm I would do to myself and others if I only viewed jail as simply where I sat for a couple hours while my dad came and bailed me out?


Back to the prodigal. We've well established the father had a genuine unmatched love for his son. Was that love lessened by the son's choice of loose living? Nope. In light of what I wrote here was it unloving of the father to let his son go? Nope. Why? Because prior to this the son thought there was live outside of the father's house. Was it unloving for the father to not go to his son and support him? Nope, actually I'm convinced it was love that kept him from doing that. Let me reiterate.


It was out of love the father did not bless his son when his son was on the wrong path. But the moment, and I mean the very moment the son repented and "came to his senses" it was then the father was freed up to bless his son every way he could. Embracing, kissing him, dressing him in the best clothes, celebrating with their best food. This was an expression of the father's heart toward the son of the love he had for his son the entire time. The difference is the son repented thus freeing the father to do what the father always wanted to do!


Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him. - Isaiah 30:18


God loves you (1 John 4:8, John 3:16), and therefore God will always act loving toward you. Sometimes though that is a tough love which will allow you to go headlong into misery (Luke 15:12-13, Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). Did the prodigal know better? I'm positive he was well warned, for love does that very thing in order to protect those whom are loved (Rom. 1:20). In fact, the entire law was given to us in love (Rom. 7:12, Gal. 5:14, Matt. 22:40, Gal. 3:24). Does God delight in our wallowing in misery? Heaven's no!


23 Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live? - Ezekiel 18:23


I wasn't raised in a Christian home. I became a Christian later around 18 years of age but just before that I had many things stripped from me. My relationship with my then girlfriend (now wife, God has restored!), my parents separated, my place of living was gone, and so long story short, I came to my senses and sought someone who I knew loved me with a love that was out of this world. His first word of advice "Ryan, the first thing you need to do is get right with God". I listened, I prayed, and I received! Would I have done that if things had been peachy? I don't know. But I know such desperation caused me to seek help. It wasn't long after that I was sitting down with who is now my mother-in-law who said to me "sometimes God will strip everything from you to get you to turn to Him". I have to say, I'm so thankful God did just that.


God is not chained from blessing you when you're acting foolishly for lack of power or ability. God is chained from blessing you because of His love for you. Because of God's character there are some things He cannot do. Because God is holy and pure He cannot lie (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:17-18), because He is infinite in knowledge He does not change His mind (though there are times He seemingly does, but see 1 Sam. 15:29), because He is uncreated there can be no other like Him (Psa. 90:2, Isa. 45:18) because He is perfect He is perfectly unified (Deut. 6:4), because He is perfectly faithful He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). Like Jesus said, a good tree bears good fruit and it cannot be any other way (Matt 7:17). Since God is perfectly good, God cannot bear any fruit but that which is perfectly good. It is actually because of this standard that Romans 1:20 declares that men have no excuse because they have seen the fruit of God and therefore they have undeniable knowledge of God's invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature. If a good tree could bears bad fruit or a bad tree could bear good fruit then their excuse here may remain. 1 John 4:8 and 4:16 says "God is love". That is the Tree and therefore it will bear fruit in keeping with Itself.


So all that to say, God remains loving even when it's tough love. But as I quoted in Isaiah 30:18, tough love is not His desire. Let's revisit that verse, it's worth it.


Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him. - Isaiah 30:18


There is what is in the heart of our Heavenly Father as also Jesus illustrated of Him as the prodigal's father. "The Lord longs to be gracious to you". Let that sink in. God has a longing, an ache, a perpetual dwelling on how He might be gracious to you. It's a thought He revisits moment by moment, day by day. Much like I imagine the prodigal's father felt sitting on the porch of his house watching the horizon for his son. And like the prodigal's father it says here that the Lord "waits on high to have compassion on you". Upon seeing the prodigal's return it says the "father saw him and felt compassion for him".


Please don't take lightly the riches of God's grace. He is lavishing it on us and do you know why? BECAUSE HE WANTS TOO! (Luke 12:32, Luke 15:10). It's not because you're good, it's not because you earned it, it's simply because that is who God is! Notice the prodigal's speech was cut off. Re-read the speech the prodigal prepared in Luke 15:18 and notice how much he was actually able to get out in Luke 15:21 before the father cut him off and started instructing those in his charge to begin celebration preparations.


Repentance doesn't earn you a place at God's table, it frees God to graciously place you at His table. The very thing God wanted to do all along (Ecc. 7:29, Isa 53:10, Heb. 12:2). But not only place you at God's table, but Jesus came that the Father may lavish this love on you both in this age and in the age to come (Rom. 8:32, John 10:10, Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30). Jesus came that God may include you in His family and bless you with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) even including the best gift there could ever be, God Himself (Luke 11:13, Rom. 14:17).


I hope knowledge of this makes verses like this one make more sense.


Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:6


Notice the three words "that He may". Humility doesn't earn you exaltation as if you merited it by humility, rather it frees God to do what He wants to do. Also notice the phrase "at the proper time". What deems a time proper? Since it is God who does the exalting I would say it is also He who deems when it's proper to do so. A proper time means there is also an improper time to exalt a person. An improper time may be blessing a person when they remain arrogant. It may be improper because it would feed into their arrogance, validating their self-exaltation which does them no good but actually harms them further.


Let's take one last visit of Isaiah 30:18:


Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him. - Isaiah 30:18


"For the Lord is a God of justice;" This is also a core characteristic of God. The one thing that keeps God from exalting you is God always does what is right. And exalting you is not always what is loving, good, and right. One may look at the first two lines of Isaiah 30:18 on how God longs to be gracious, and He's patiently waiting to have compassion and ask "What's stopping Him?" Whereas one could answer by saying take a look at the 3rd line "For the Lord is a God of justice". If this were not true then the cross is made void, but since the Lord is a God of justice, and at the same time God is longing to be gracious, thus enters the cross of Jesus Christ. God's justice was met and His love was freed to do what He really wanted to do! One of my favorite worship songs is 'Mercy Came Running' by Phillips, Craig & Dean. I beg of you to listen to it in light of this study.


One may then ask, ok, so what's keeping me from receiving this lavishing of God's grace stemming from His love of which I would point people to the last line of Isaiah 30:18 and ask you "do you want it?" The prodigal didn't understand the full love the Father had for Him, but to some degree he came to his senses and wanted to dwell with the father and therefore headed back. You don't have to be a master theologian and understand the mysteries of God for God to embrace you and kiss you and grace you, just heed what you know already and humble yourself that He may exalt you at the proper time.


When it's in your heart to love unconditionally because that's what your wants to do and you get the opportunity to love unconditionally, you feel like it's a win, not just a win for them, but a win for them is a greater win for you. The one giving the love wins because their heart delights in the other person being blessed. When they get to bless, they themselves are blessed because their heart gets what it wants. There is a reason why the bible points out that "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16). That is His nature. Let Him love you and He will because for Him it comes naturally and when He loves you, it's a win for Him! (Luke 15:7, 10).


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Have some feedback, insight, questions, comments, prayer requests, etc? Maybe you just want to share what God is doing in your life (I love praise reports), or maybe you can relate to some of the things here and need an ear. I'd love to hear from you!