The words of Jesus in Matthew 10:8 are characteristically simple, logical and compelling: “Freely you have received; freely give”. 

As Jesus commissions the disciples for their first solo mission, the context of his instructions is very specific. They are to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom and he has given them authority to do as he himself has been doing – heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons. What they have received from the Lord in great abundance – good news and the authority of the King to do his work – they are to give lavishly and generously.

At this point in his ministry, Jesus limits the field of mission to his own Jewish countrymen and women (Matthew 10:5-6). Only at the end of Matthew’s gospel do we hear the Lord authorise the mission to “all nations”, which is to occupy his disciples “to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

But encapsulated in Jesus’ words is a dynamic that operates widely in the Christian life. Everything we have is the gift of God; all that we have received we are to give/use/pursue for God’s glory. 

Jesus is speaking specifically of the disciples having received the gift of the gospel of the kingdom and authority for mission. But the Scriptures teach that all of life is the gift of God. Jesus commissions his disciples to give of what they have received freely, generously, abundantly. And the Christian is to give of what they have received for the glory of God.

The Scriptures exhort the believer to delight in the gifts of God and rejoice in his works (Ps 104). The warmth of the sun and the glory of the created world, the food on our table and clothes on our back (Matt 6:25-34), marriage and children (Ps 127), work and rest (Gen 2:1-2,15), health and wealth (Eccl 5:18-20; Ps 103:1-5), sickness and sorrow and persecutions (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) – as well as “spiritual” realities like salvation, the Spirit and the Word, adoption and our heavenly home – are all gifts of God. Equally, Scripture teaches us that everything we have and do, and everything we are, is for God’s glory (Eph 1:6,12,14; Rom 12:1; Col 3:17).

To put that another way, we receive breath and food for today from God, so life and energy is to be devoted to the glory of God. Marriage is a gift from God to be pursued in hope and trust and prayer for the praise of his glory and not merely for personal, let alone temporary, happiness. Children are a gift from the Lord so they are to be raised in the reverent knowledge and instruction of the Lord. They will account to him for their lives but those who are parents and those who have influence in the lives of children will give account for our child-rearing.  

If we work at something, whether for a wage or not, it is the gift of God and we are to pursue the work of our hands, not as though we were serving an earthly master, let alone a personal goal, but so as to please the One who gives us “power to work”. And when we are blessed with seasons of rest and recreation, to enjoy the creation and the company of family and friends, we are to both receive the gift of a holiday with thankfulness and joy; and to pursue it for the glory of the One who has blessed us so abundantly.  

Is it your practice to acknowledge each day as the gift of God? To welcome the hours, the conversations, the opportunities and challenges, the responsibilities and blessings of each day as nothing less than gifts from the hand of our heavenly Father? Scripture teaches us, too, to recognise that even the sorrows and trials of life are appointed by God and “given” to us to be received with trust and hope, for they make us long for the new creation, our true home, in a way that we never would if we were spared every hardship.

And is it your practice to give back to God what he has given to you, for his use, his purposes, his glory? To pursue the day, to live life, to enter into my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, my work, my leisure with a prayerful intention to do so to bless others, to celebrate the goodness of God, to please and glorify Him? Freely we have received, let us freely, generously, joyfully give; to the praise of His glorious grace.  

This Archbishop Writes column was printed in the May-June 2024 edition of Southern Cross, the news magazine for Sydney Anglicans.