Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Big Bang Theory and Receiving Gifts

People are terrible at receiving good gifts.  We can't just say thank-you and enjoy the present, we immediately begin to think about the scales of the relationship and whether they're in balance.  Witness the following clip from The Big Bang Theory's second-season episode, "The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis:"

The money line is, "You haven't given me a gift.  You've given me an obligation!"  This is exactly how we feel much of the time. How do you feel when that Christmas card arrives on December 24th, from someone to whom you didn't send a card?  Are you glad that a friend you thought was marginal has thought of you at the holidays?  No.  You immediately begin to devise a Mission: Impossible-style plan to get a Christmas card into their mailbox by Christmas morning.  Anything to keep the scales balanced.

When we Christians receive a really great gift (say, just to choose one at random, the salvific self-sacrificial death of Jesus Christ), we don't know what to do with ourselves.  What kind of response would be appropriate? 

We try to be ready for anything.  No matter how good the gift is, we'll be prepared with a response.  Of course, we can never be fully prepared for a gift like Jesus'...his very life.

Of course, when the gift is that good, no response is good enough.  There is no bath product cornucopia that can balance the scales when Leonard Nimoy's DNA is on the other side, and there doesn't seem to be an adequate response when Jesus' death for our sins holds that place, either.  If we turn a big enough gift into an obligation, we are crushed by it.

Let's acknowledge from the beginning, then, that this is a gift that tips the scales forever.  Let's treat the gift like a child would, with excitement and joy, and go play (Mark 10:15).

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