I’ve been reading a book this year about the connection between gift rituals and the artistic process. Giving a gift is an act of love that works to create communal bonds. When you receive a gift from someone, you go into debt. It’s not a debt that requires that you give back to the giver (otherwise it ceases to be a gift and it becomes a loan or a market exchange.) The debt falls on you to pass the gift on to someone else, either the same item or the spirit of the gift in the form of something else. Through this cycle of gift giving a community grows bonds that tie it together and make it stronger.
When I was in high school, Mike Jones, who played guitar in my dad’s band, gave me a beautiful Fender Stratocaster guitar. I borrowed the guitar for a summer, and after the summer ended, Mike told me that I could keep the guitar as a gift. I was a little freaked out. As a 15 year old kid, I had never received such a valuable gift from someone outside of my family. Mike explained to me that when he was a young guitar neophyte, a man in his church came up to him after a performance and said, “I want to buy you a new guitar.” Mike told me that because that man had bestowed a gracious gift on him, he was going to pass that grace on to me.Mike is now the senior pastor of Hope Church Presbyterian in Tampa, FL.
As a gifted musician, Mike had received his creative skill as a gift from the Creator. Mike passed the gift on by sharing it in performance. Then this gracious man responded to Mike’s creative gift by giving him a physical gift, a new guitar. Later, Mike passed on the gift to me as a response to my creative gift. A web of gifts was created that was fed by the grace of the Creator. He is the one who gives the skill to the artist. It was His grace working in the heart of the man who gave Mike his guitar.
Here’s an exhortation from 1 Peter 4:10
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
The content of Peter’s letter leading up to this exhortation is spent establishing our gift debt to Christ. Peter starts his letter talking about the gifts of “new birth into a living hope”, “an inheritance that can never perish,” and that we are “shielded by God’s power” (1 Peter 1:3-5). These are blessings from the Lord that we did not earn. These are gifts that we can never repay the same way that you might repay a loan. That is why we respond to God’s grace through passing that grace onto others.
As a musician, I have been given not only the gifts of new life in Christ; I have also been given the skills to play the guitar, to sing, to lead a band, to write a new song, to make instrumental arrangements, and to pastorally direct people through a set of worship songs. These are skills that I have learned and developed as a craft, but at their root, they have all been gifts from the Lord. Now through my service, I pay back a little bit of that gift debt every Sunday to the people who come to our church.
No, I haven’t given way any guitars, so I still have a lot more gift debt to pass on.
Have you been blessed in any way by the Creator through a gracious gift from one of His children?
How has the Creator bestowed creative gifts on you?
How have you responded to you gift debts?