In his book “Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace,” Miroslav Volf identifies two false images of God that we find irresistible. The first is God the Negotiator, whose favor must be bought, who operates according to the law of quid pro quo, who needs things from us—sacrifice, obedience, praise and glory—in order to bless.

The second is God the Santa Claus who, contrary to the warnings of parents and the espionage of the Elf on the Shelf, dispenses just what we asked for at the time of our appointing and promptly disappears. This God gives but makes no demands of us.

In contrast to these, Jesus points us to a God who gives freely out of God’s own good pleasure, and who also cares enough to train us to be givers ourselves. The Father gives the kingdom out of the kindness of his own heart and the very next word is “Sell your possessions, and give alms.” We need not be afraid, because God is already seeking our wellbeing. And we need not be stuck as self-absorbed receivers because Jesus is actively forming us to be channels of God’s generosity for others.

Father, you know what I need even before I ask and you open your hand in blessing simply because you love me. Empower me today to be a channel of your grace, so that others can see who you really are and rejoice. Amen.

Rev. Mark Williamson, Chair, Campus Ministry Oversight Team, South-Central Synod of Wisconsin

Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:32