The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. - Job 1:21b
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights… - James 1:17a
We’ve heard these verses spoken in sermons or bible studies. We’ve memorized them and we’ve seen them on stylized wall hangings. We all can share stories of the gifts that God has given us. In the West, we tend to equate God’s gifts with wealth but that is an incomplete definition. When scripture speaks of God’s gifts, it speaks primarily of our very existence, our family and friends, joy, faith, grace and mercy. The other definition refers to the spiritual gifts God apportions to each believer when they are adopted into the family of God.
Over time we forget, whether it is the food we eat or the clothes we wear, or our family and friends, everything we have is a gift from God. It becomes easy to believe these gifts are not gifts but the result of our efforts. But when we lose a job or find ourselves unable to do things we could before, we’re reminded that everything we have is a gift from our Heavenly Father.
Along with our daily provisions, God does bless us with some of the desires of our heart. We have good friends, we get married, we have children, we receive some of the material blessings we desire. Then there are those intangibles we don’t think about: finding joy in the midst of grief, grace when we fail again, mercy when we sin against God. All of these are gifts and not a result of our effort.
Just as we can believe the lie that the gifts we have are from our effort, another lie is God owes us certain gifts. God recently revealed a blind spot in my theology. I don’t believe in the prosperity Gospel. Scripture is clear that God will not just give me things because I believe hard enough. In my case, over time I began to believe that God would give me my basic desires, a wife and children, because I’d been faithful. I’d swapped the “name it/claim it” faith of the Prosperity Gospel with a debt/repayment theology. I’d been good enough so God would bless me.
This theology is just as misguided and just as cancerous. Looking back at my faith journey, I can see how each disappointment where God did not give me the gifts I felt I deserved, created another tumor in my spirit. Then several years ago, these disappointments and hurts metastasized, and my spirit was overcome. I hurt and struggled in my spiritual walk and I began to question God’s goodness. All the while, I didn’t know where this sickness had come from.
God Takes Away
The idea of God taking away gifts feels wrong. How can a good and loving God take back a gift he freely gave? When God takes away a gift, it is easy to critize God and question his goodness. However, if we step back we can often find a reason.
We misuse God’s gift.
There are times when we are given a gift but we misuse it. Perhaps, it is a relationship that we take advantage of and end up harming the other person. Or maybe we take some of the wealth God gives us and pursue things that cause us physical, emotional or spiritual harm. In other instances we turn God’s gifts into idols. We begin finding fulfillment in the gift instead of the giver. If a parent sees their gift is causing their child harm, is the parent good if they let their child keep the gift?
We hoard God’s gift
God’s gifts are never just for us. We are to use them to bless others. If we get out of step with God, we begin to focus on accumulating God’s gifts. We become a hoarder of his gifts. If this goes on and God takes back a gift, the selfish spirit we developed will be quick to accuse God. We’ll throw a temper-tantrum because we believe God is being unfair.
We lose things that were never gifts to begin with
Sometimes God takes things away from us that were never gifts. Out of lust or selfishness we seek out and obtain things. Because we were fueled by our human desires, we will rationalize or lie to ourselves that God gave us the thing. We do this to cover our behavior and motives. Then when God takes this thing from us to protect us, we become angry at God.
God takes away gifts for our growth
We’ve looked at how God will take away his gifts in order to discipline us. Our actions, whether it’s hoarding or misusing a gift, provoke God to discipline us. God’s discipline is not for punishment but for our growth. He disciplines us so we will turn back to righteousness.
Many times when God takes back a gift, it is because of our sin. However, there are times when we have done nothing wrong. Those times, God takes away a gift to strengthen our faith. They are removed so it forces us to draw closer to God. If we endure a trial like Job, it can be easy to see God as malicious. But as we draw closer to God, like Job, we see that God has our best in mind. We may not see the exact reason, but we understand the rationale.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
We must remember we are only stewards of the things God entrusts to us. We are to hold loosely to our gifts and share them with others when the need arises. If we hoard His gifts, misuse them or believe we deserve them, then we become angry or bitter when God takes something from us. May the words of Job not just be pretty words on our walls but the prayer of our heart when God gives or God takes away. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”