The Expository Files


Is God an Indian Giver?

Ephesians 2:8-9

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”(Ephesians 2:8-9) If grace is given by God, and God is not an “Indian-Giver”, then that must mean that we can never lose our salvation; right? Our salvation is God’s gift, and He would never take it back. At least that is the argument made by those who hold to the idea that once one is “saved” by accepting Christ as their personal Savior they are always saved and can never be lost in sin or hell. On the surface it may look like sound thinking. After all, who would call God an “Indian-Giver”? To do such would be blasphemy! However, please consider a few things before falling for the old “Indian-Giver” doctrine. (Pro 18:17)

Today’s modern definition of an “Indian-Giver”, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is “One who gives something to another and then takes or demands the gift back.” According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms the phrase derived from “the Native American practice of expecting a gift in return for one that is given.” Hopefully we can see that in today’s language the term has changed from its original derivation. At the same time, if I as a parent give my son a gift for his birthday, and then as punishment for disobedience I take that gift away; does that make me an “Indian-Giver”, or does it make me a loving, responsible, and just parent? If God gives us the gift of life and we trample on it, spit on it, disparage and defile it, and throw it back in His face, and that gift of life indeed is taken away from us; does it make God an unjust God and/or an “Indian-Giver”? (Hebrews. 6:4-7; 10:26-31; Galatians 5:1-4)

Considering the definition of simply “giving something to another and then taking the gift back”; hasn’t God demonstrated a history of doing that? In the garden of Eden God gave Adam and Eve the gift of living in the garden. It wasn’t owed to them, it was a blessing that was given to them by God’s grace. Yet when they disobeyed God’s command they were kicked out weren’t they? Does that make God an Indian-Giver? God said that every step the Israelites put foot on in the land of Canaan was a gift of grace given by Him to them. (Joshua 1:3) Yet throughout Israel’s history God would continually take the land from the Israelites and give it to other nations because of Israel’s disobedient and faithless heart. (Joshua 23:6-16) Did that make God an “Indian Giver”? God gave Jonah the shade tree (Jonah 4:6) and the very next DAY God took it away (4:7). Did that make God an “Indian Giver”? God is not an equal… God is the CREATOR! His majesty and authority is supreme. What He graciously gives or provides He also has FULL right and authority to remove or take away. It does not make Him an “Indian Giver”, but a giver of truth and justice.

Does God give the gift of life expecting a gift in return? No, He doesn’t! He expects obedience, but He expects it because He is God and worthy of it, and not in exchange for the gift of life. We are God’s created beings, created in service to Him and to do His will. (Ecc. 12:13) Obedience is not a reciprocal gift to God, it is the fulfillment of our purpose in life. But even still, we must consider, it is not God who takes away; but rather, we who give it back. II Peter 2:20-21 “For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world… they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away …” No, it is not God that is an Indian-Giver, but us who can be insolent, foolish, and ungrateful. Hopefully we have the sense and maturity to choose righteousness, live in faithfulness, and hold fast to the bountiful grace of God. (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:23)

By David Osteen
From Expository Files 18.3;  March 2011