Those Unused Gift Cards
By David Faust
Do you have any gift cards lying around your house? According to news reports, more than half of U.S. consumers purchase at least one prepaid gift card each year. However, about $3 billion of annual value goes unredeemed. What good is a gift card if you don’t use it?
My family contributes to the problem. When we receive gift cards, my wife stuffs them into an envelope she keeps on her dresser. Unfortunately, we often forget about them. I bite into my hamburger and Candy exclaims, “Wait a minute! Don’t we have a $10 gift card for this restaurant?” Somehow the burger doesn’t taste as good when you realize you could have gotten it for free.
Back in 1994, my family traveled to Walt Disney World to soak up the Florida sunshine and hang out with Mickey Mouse. To save money, we bought 4-Day Value Passes. At the end of our vacation, somehow we ended up with one unused ticket good for a one-day park admission. I tossed the ticket into a folder where it remained until recently. Looking closely at the fine print, I couldn’t find an expiration date. I contacted the friendly staff at Disney and said, “I have an unredeemed Value Pass that I purchased from you guys in 1994. Can I still use it?” Their answer? “Yes.” After 27 years, that faded piece of cardboard will still get me into the theme park—as long as I cough up the money to travel there and pay the admission fee for anyone else who joins me!
Appreciating Christian Liberty
The word free gets tossed around a lot. Advertisers push fat-free, sugar-free, and gluten-free foods. Financial planners coach us to be debt-free so we can enjoy a worry-free retirement. Our church offers first-time guests a “free gift.” (Is there any other kind?)
True freedom, though, seems elusive. Is my life stress-free? Nope. Am I free from responsibility? Not as long as I have a job. Carefree? Not when I have adult children and grandchildren to be concerned about. Pain-free? No. Free from moral obligations? Definitely not. I wonder: In America, is freedom respected and protected, or merely expected? In the church, do we appreciate what it cost the Lord to liberate our souls?
Sometimes we treat God’s grace a bit like an unused gift card, as if we’re trying to pay the price for something God already has paid. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1), and this freedom results in many blessings.
It makes our burdens lighter. When we’re free in Christ, we don’t have to lug around the heavy yoke of religious expectations.
It makes serving sweeter. We can give and serve from the overflow of a grateful heart without trying to impress others or earn God’s approval.
It makes our priorities clearer. The slogan “in essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; and in all things, love” helps us avoid unnecessary distractions and divisions over personal preferences. The Galatians fussed and fumed about the circumcision ritual, but the apostle Paul insisted, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
I am determined to cherish my Christian liberty. And once in a while, a less important goal crosses my mind: I hope my family will join me at Walt Disney World someday so I can use the rest of that 4-Day Value Pass.
Personal Challenge: On a piece of paper or in your journal, write your personal reflections about what it means to be free in Christ. How are you experiencing Christian liberty? In what ways do you feel constrained or enslaved instead of free?