Thursday, June 09, 2005

The great outdoors

Ever since I was a kid, I've had a sense of awe about natural creation, but it was only after studying the Christian faith that I could recognize creation as the overflowing love of God. Being in California has been a constant reminder of that truth, as this region of the country is exceptionally blessed with natural beauty. Unfortunately, it's a hard lesson in ingratitude as well. Real estate is a status symbol in California (as the home prices more than adequately demonstrate), which fosters the attitude that one's money entitles one to natural beauty, that one owns it. And obviously, that attitude is one that a Christian, a member of the covenant of grace, must necessarily consider more than a little absurd.

St. Paul is the most staunch defender of the Christian doctrine of grace, standing most firmly against this ingratitude, which he encountered in the form of the Judaizers. For what could be more ungrateful than taking the greatest gift ever given, the very Son of God, as one's own? That is one of the most profound lessons of Christianity: the gift never ceases to be a gift, nor does the gift ever stop being given. St. Luke's Gospel records Christ's profound teaching on the subject in the figure of the unworthy servant (Lk. 17:10) and the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Lk. 18:10-14). We, as a Christian people, never take ownership of our blessings, never are entitled to them, but they are ours nonetheless because they are given to us. We can't pay God back; we can only thank Him for what He has given us.

Thank God for giving from His abundance without obligation or expectation of return, and indeed, in full knowledge that no return can be given.