God is the True Philanthropist, that is, the lover of humanity who generously gives gifts. Every morning God gives the gift of a new day. Throughout the day, we receive the gifts of God that sustain us in both body and soul. These gifts include such things as the rising sun, the air that we breath, and the land where we live. The Lord is the source and fountain of all that is good. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). So, as the people of God we are being taught to receive every good and gracious gift from God with thanksgiving. We are learning to pray each and every day that our Father would look upon us in mercy for the sake of His Son, our Savior, Jesus, and renew us by His Holy Spirit.
Jesus teaches us saying, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). By nature, we are evil and not good. God alone is good. Yet it is common knowledge that a child needs parents to provide good gifts such as house and home, food and drink, clothing and shoes. Thus, we understand that earthly fathers give the needed gifts to help their earthly children live in their bodies.
Now, we can easily apply this basic physical need to our soul. Our Heavenly Father gives the needed gifts to help His heavenly children, that is, those who have been adopted by grace in the water and the Word of Holy Baptism. Jesus invites us to petition the Father and ask Him to constantly give to us the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of intercession and adoption. As God’s children, we ask that the Holy Spirit would continually be given to us so that we may acknowledge the Father’s merciful goodness, serve Him in willing obedience, and give thanks for all His gifts.
In the First Commandment, we are taught about the gift of God Himself. In the Second Commandment, we are taught about the gift of God’s Holy Name. In the Third Commandment, we are taught about the gift of God’s Holy Word. In the Fourth Commandment, we are taught about the gift of our parents and other authorities. In the Fifth Commandment, we are taught about the gift of our lives. In the Sixth Commandment, we are taught about the gift of possessions.
Now in the Seventh Commandment, there is a striking reversal in themes. In Commandments 1–6, we learn that God is the Giver of gifts. Now in the Seventh Commandment, we are warned about the temptation to take away these gifts from others. We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions. Satan tempts us to take possession of the gifts that others have received from God’s hand. He tricks us to be like him to live in darkness and work by deception. When we steal, it is as if we are deciding that God made a mistake in giving the gift to somebody else. To steal is to take things into our own hands and seize what we think should belong to us, and so we end up clinging to fallen creation rather than to the Creator. When we steal, we try and possess the possessions of others. In the end, the possessions take possession of us. The old evil foe deceives us to become captured by the things that captivate us.
Christ comes to free us from our captivity. He opens His hand to grab hold of us. Then He teaches us to let go of the things we cling to in this creation. Now we are free to cling to Christ. God the Father loved us and gave the gift of His Only-begotten Son so that we would not be condemned with the corrupted creation.
The Holy Spirit is also enlightening us and leading us to have open hands that receive gifts from God and give gifts to others. When the hand is closed, it does not receive and it does not give. This is why St. Peter instructs the baptized as adopted children saying, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” (1 Peter 4:10)
In the old way of walking, we see our neighbor and ponder, “How can my neighbor serve me? How can I hurt my neighbor? How can I take gifts from him or her? How can I get his or her possessions by deception?” Now in the new way of walking, we see our neighbor and ponder, “How can I serve my neighbor? How can I help my neighbor? How can I give gifts to him or her? How can I help my neighbor keep his or her possessions?”
In Christ, we are a new creation and there is no condemnation. In Christ, we are growing and learning to be philanthropists, that is, lovers of humanity who give gifts. In Christ, we lack no gift. We have all that we need in Him.
Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier serves as pastor at Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Los Alamos, NM
Created: August 12th, 2017