Is Life a Gift or a Puzzle?
Is life a gift to be received or a puzzle to be solved? Paul answers this question in Colossians chapter 2. What does it look like to view life as a gift?
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Notice the passive nature we take here; we “receive Christ Jesus the Lord.” We don’t earn Jesus. We don’t figure him out. We receive him. Perhaps “passive” is the wrong word. To receive Christ is something more than mere intellectual assent. Receiving Christ involves the posture of the heart, not the power of the mind. B.B. Warfield surely was right when he said, “People would rather discuss truth than receive it.”
Once we’ve received Christ, the natural outflow of that reception will be thanksgiving. Indeed, Paul links our “walk” with thanks. We’re not just supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and follow the law of Christ out of duty. No, we’re called to follow him out of delight. Israel wasn’t given the law before they were delivered from slavery, but after. Likewise, after we receive Christ, we follow his law with a thankful heart, mindful of the grace that’s been shown to us.
Viewing life as a gift from God stands in contrast to viewing life as a reward for solving a puzzle. Paul warns of this difference.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
There is a perennial temptation to trade the gospel for man-made philosophy. The gospel shows God condescending to meet us, but the pitfall Paul describes is the exact opposite. Philosophy is humanity constructing a man-made ladder to reach God. The gospel is Pentecost; philosophy is Babel. It’s easy to understand why we are tempted to follow these “human traditions.” The gospel feels almost too good to be true. It teaches that we are so loved that Jesus took on flesh to live among us; he died the death we deserved, and he exited the grave to give us eternal life. This is an overwhelming set of facts! Further, the gospel requires us to trust “another.” If we have a philosophy that explains everything, we don’t need anyone else. We don’t need trust. We don’t need to “receive.” We can “earn.”
These two postures, these two worldviews, stand before us today. Either we receive Christ and see life as a gift, or we try our hand at a man-made philosophy and see life as a puzzle to be solved by our own merit. If life is a gift, thanksgiving will motivate us to serve God out of joy that we have all we need in Christ! If life is a puzzle, anxiety will motivate us to seek God out of fear of missing out. The gift of life is set before us. Let’s receive it!
Pastor for Faith Formation at All Saints Anglican Church in Downtown Dallas, TX.
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all
things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord
of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth,
divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together
under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.