The World 'Takes' But Your Lord 'Gives'

Text: John 3:1-17

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

I do not have to try and convince you that the world takes from you.  Yes, this world that we live within does not give but takes.

From your earliest days, toys are stolen by pesky neighbor kids.  Later on, in grade school, lunch money is taken by school bullies. In Junior High, the gossip of mean girls trashes good reputations.  

After graduation, colleges take money. Jobs take time.  The government takes tax money.

And let us not forget the more subtle things.  The elements of weather, they take from you.  Hail and rain wear out shingles.  Salt on roads rusts out cars; ice cracks driveways.  And the sun makes paint flake off houses.  No giving, just taking.  

There are also many more ways that the world takes from you – ways that hurt quite profoundly. I am talking about the kind of taking that emotionally scars and wounds deeply. For example, con artists call, pretending to give money but scam hundreds of dollars without a person knowing it. Divorce takes a marriage away, destroying security and love for children.  Evil and cowardly men, known as sexual predators, stalk women to take advantage of them with force – taking away trust.  The list of taking from you is endless.  Reckless driving under the influence takes life through car crashes.  Abortions take away life in the womb.  Adultery takes away love from a spouse.  Cancer takes a mom away from a family.  Strokes take away independence from elderly persons.  Depression takes away joy.  

Life under the sun takes; this world does not give — no wonder why bitterness, fear, and mistrust are so common in this life.  

I am reminded of an elderly lady that I once knew.  She was challenging to be around.  She had a scowl on her face every day. Nothing was ever right, no one was ever good enough, and bitterness poured off of her, wherever she went. At my young age, I felt a great deal of anger towards her because she was a very miserable person.  Every joke told to her was met with an evil eye. Every act of kindness done by others was never good enough.  Every word that she said spewed forth disgust.  But what I did not understand was that her bitterness and harsh behavior was a result (an outward display) of great inner anger.  The world had taken from her.  The world stripped her of her security; death took her loved ones, and she was left feeling abandoned with hurt, anger, and her sinful heart.  

Dear friends, before we condemn this lady too quickly and position ourselves in the category of ‘giver,’ let it be said that you and I are not givers. Because of our sinful nature, we are takers in life, like the rest of the world. We want what we want, and we take it right now. Left unchecked, we take while the taking’s good.  And when called out, well… we think of ways to justify our taking.  But deep down, no justification can excuse us from the fact that our hearts cry, 

“Gimme, gimme, gimme, I need, I need, I need!”  

Things are made worse when others take from us. That is to say; when we are constantly bombarded by the world taking from us, it is easy to be driven to bitterness, fear, and mistrust. And when this happens, we become even more toxic, as we mistrust ourselves, others, and even God. 

Considering all of this, it is so incredibly important for you and me to be in the church to be given to. 

Listen to our reading from the Gospel of John one more time.  

“…the Son of Man [must] be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

These are profound and comforting words that tell us about this marvelous relationship we have with God. It is a relationship with God where God is not just another taker, like the rest of the world.  

Now, did you hear that? 

God is not like the rest of the world, for He is not a taker but a giver.  The devil, he comes to steal and destroy your faith – to take from you.  The world takes.  But not God. Even when you get small gifts, which are few and far between in this life, they are nothing compared to the great gifts given by our God.

Keep in mind that we often give gifts to grease the wheels – to get stubborn people to do what we want them to do.  We often give gifts to exploit; to get a person to keep on doing something that benefits us. We give gifts to demonstrate our power and ego and even humiliate others as second-class. We give gifts to make ourselves feel good.  We give gifts with expectations, to get something in return. We also give gifts to settle the waters in a wavy relationship. But none of these are the reason why God gives to you and me.  

You see, God gives to you and me out of perfect love. He does not give to manipulate. He does not give as if He has a debt to pay. No one is twisting His arm when He gives. But instead, God is moved to give by His love. You see, He delights in giving good gifts without any conditions to you and me.  Jesus says that God gave His only Son because He loved the world.  

But we must pause here and take special note that the love of God is not like the love that we hear so much about in the world. The love of God is not a fluffy feeling.  The love of God is not some silly pious saying that is used to make God seem good.  As an old professor used to say, 

“When God said that He loved the world, He did not have a fluffy. Instead, He ‘gave.’ His love made it necessary for Him to give.” 

And so, God is the great giver, not mankind. There is no greater gift than Jesus being sent to sacrifice everything for those whom He loves. All the silly virtues we hear about in our culture are empty and hollow clich├ęs compared to the love of God.

And here is why this is so important for you to hear today!  You, as image-bearers of God, are recipients of a great gift.  God does not give you gold or silver. He does not give you a new Mercedes-Benz. He does not give you an earthly kingdom. He does not give you money or a lollypop with a pat on the head.  No!  He gives you His Son – Jesus Christ.  And with Christ, you have the most wonderful work of which God himself is capable - your forgiveness, life, and salvation.  

You see, God is not stingy. He does not hold back. He gave His only Son.  And Jesus – the Son of God – He did not come to take but to serve and give Himself as a ransom for you and the entire world. 

But there is one thing that Christ does takes from you. In fact, He became the world’s greatest taker when He was suspended in the air on a cross.  He took upon Himself the sin of the entire world and considered it well worthwhile.  

That is what is so incredibly profound for you and me to understand today. The world is a great mass of people who do nothing but take. The world has no fear or love or praise of God. The world is full of murder, adultery, stealing, betrayal, anarchy, and malice. However, God draws near this bitter world as if this world were a beloved beautiful bride.  He had every reason not to give and every reason to take. But through Christ, He gives everything and takes all that which is evil.  

Dear friends, do you really believe that the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is gracious, that He loves you? Do you believe that Jesus gave everything for you? Or, have you been blinded by fear, bitterness, and unbelief?

Hear this today, loud and clear!  God is not your enemy through Christ. If you think that, you are wrong. God is not a taker. If you think that, you are wrong. God is not the author of bitterness. If you think that, you are wrong. The Father’s necessity to love you is found in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. 

Jesus speaks through the bitterness, fear, and mistrust that clogs ears and hearts, so that you might know His love, and that this love would drive out fear, bitterness, and unbelief. Jesus comes not to condemn you, but through Him, you might have God’s acceptance and forgiveness.  

And so, when bitterness, fear, and mistrust ensnare you; when the devil and the world take from you, look away from the world, the devil, and your sinful nature to the one who gives you all – Christ Jesus.  Bitterness, fear, and mistrust?  They find their end in Christ, as He gives you faith.  And with faith, you obtain rest, and peace – freedom to live within a new reality of giving, not taking.  

The world may take, but your Lord gives. Because the Lord gives, receive His gifts of the Word and Sacrament often.  And as you receive, receive with joy, rest, and peace. Receive His gifts, Baptized Saints, they are proof of God’s love.  

In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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