My five-year-old son ran up to me with an eager look on his face. “Dad, may I have a penny?” he asked. The little boy smiled up at me with his big, blue eyes shining.
“Why do you want a penny?” I asked, although I had a feeling that I already knew, based on similar requests in the past.
“I want a piece of gum,” he replied (I keep a coin-operated bubble gum machine in our den that I use sometimes as an office).
With supper fast approaching, I shook my head as I looked down at him. “No, not right now. Maybe later.” He sighed and walked away glumly while I went on with my own projects.
About ten minutes later, I walked by the door of our den again, only to have my son pop out of the room and run past me. “Son,” I called and he stopped, looking back at me with a peculiar look in his eyes.
“Honey, what were you doing?” I asked him as something like guilt flashed in his expression. “Did you get a piece of gum?”
He hesitated and then nodded his head. “Yes, I did,” he answered. Hmm. Since I hadn’t actually said that he couldn’t have gum, I didn’t feel that I could confront him on that matter alone. “Where did you get the money for the gum?” I asked.
He paused and then answered, “I found it on the floor by my bed.” Something didn’t quite ring true in what he said so I looked intently into his face, searching for some evidence that would support his claim.
After a pause, I simply said, “Did you take someone else’s money for the gum?” He shook his head at me. “Son, God sees everything… even the things that I don’t see,” I said quietly. “He knows if you found it on the floor of your bedroom or not.”
My son looked up at me, and started to shake his head again. “I DID find it on the….” He stopped in the middle of his sentence. “Why? Is God going to tell YOU about it?”
I remained silent and just looked at him as gently as I could. “Oh, all right,” he grumbled. “I found the penny on mom’s dresser.”
I reached down and hugged him. “Sweetheart, taking that penny, even though it WAS just a penny, was still stealing,” I explained. “Go and tell your mommy what you’ve done… but just so you know, I’m proud of you for telling me the truth.”
He didn’t answer me but he did hug me back and then ran off to talk to his mom. I let him tell her on his own and walked into the room just as he was completing his confession.
His mother lovingly received him and affirmed his telling the truth, and forgave him openly. We then explained that he would now have to “pay back” the penny he took by doing a small chore. Even so, his misdeed would not be dangled over his head: it was forgiven and forgotten.
In so many ways, such human demonstrations are only feeble portrayals of grace, and we are by no means perfect examples of it. But such small opportunities to love our children as God loves us perhaps gives them pictures of the kind of relationship that we can have with our heavenly Father. And while no one could ever possibly “pay God back” to undo the damage that our sin has done, we are hopefully reminded that His forgiveness should result in a penitent heart on our part and a desire to do good instead of serve self.
“At dawn (Jesus) appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’” (John 8:2-11 NIV).
Driven by their jealousy, these who should have been helping others to find God, were not really interested in justice… they were simply trying to discredit Jesus in the eyes of those gathered around. Quagmired in their pride and envy, they were, in fact, misrepresenting God, indulging their own egos and in real denial of their own sinfulness and need for grace.
Oh, how tragic that human nature distorts the simple story of God’s love! The Gospel of Jesus is good news. And the good news of this Gospel is that God loves us in spite of the fact that we have all sinned and fall short of His glory (see Romans 3:23). And the good news gets even better in that He loves us so much that He willingly and willfully sacrificed Himself in the Person of His Son, Jesus, so that His holy Law would be vindicated and yet not destroy us: He took our punishment in our place so that through His death and resurrected life we might have the promise of eternal life. Through Christ Jesus, He gives us heaven without the shame and reproach of our sin hanging on us with all its nasty tentacles. What He requires in return is simply that we turn from what we once were in the slime of our sin and selfishness, and embrace His death, resurrection, and lordship as our only hope for eternity. We then walk with Him as obedient children, beloved of their Father.
Rather simple, isn’t it? So let us not be so bound to our pride, ambition, and selfishness that we can’t come to Him as a child. Neither let us be bullied by fear or pressures and tyrannical demands of the world that we do not stop and listen with open ears and hearts to the voice of the One Who desires to give us life and hope that last beyond the grave.
“(Jesus) called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-3 NIV). Let us then pray that we all will have soft and tender hearts as His Holy Spirit moves in our broken world.
You and your wife taught your son a beautiful lesson in grace. The Father still loves us when we sin, though we must repent and accept forgiveness. You are training up your children in the way they should go. This is a great lesson.