I can’t even remember where I first heard it, but the sentence stuck with me.
In a garden of a thousand yesses, God gave Adam and Eve one no.
Just one. That’s all. Adam and Eve could eat from any tree in the garden but one. The sentence stuck with me because I’d never heard the garden that God gave Adam and Eve described in such an inviting and generous way. In my memory, at least, there had always been more focus on the one prohibition and less focus on the astounding, big-hearted, open-handed provision and permission of God that lay before the first couple when their generous Creator (and ours) invited them to enjoy the bounteous goodness of his garden.
How about you? Have you ever heard the Garden of Eden described as a land of a thousand yesses and one no? Why don’t we think about it in such terms? Why aren’t we astounded by the creative kindness of a God who would speak all kinds of fruit-bearing plants and trees into existence and offer all of them — all of them — to Adam and Eve for their enjoyment and nourishment, with one and only one exception (Genesis 2:16-17). And, by the way, if we’re looking at the text properly, I believe we’ll conclude that the one “no” was also a gift. A command, yes. A command to be obeyed, yes. But also a gift. For Adam and Eve were never designed to go off on their own in search of knowledge about the way life worked. God didn’t intend for them to determine right and wrong on their own terms. They were meant to get that in relationship with their gracious and generous Creator.
Despite our sinful bent that leads us to view God’s garden “no” as the prohibition of a stingy ogre-like overlord who selfishly hordes the best for himself, the Bible, from first page to last, presents us with a God who is overwhelmingly generous to his creatures. Sure, there are divine prohibitions. There are unequivocal “no’s” that God expects his creatures to heed, and we ignore them at great peril to ourselves. For he is God, and he is holy, and it is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).
But don’t we run equally headlong into sin when we ignore or disdain the yesses, when we don’t properly acknowledge all the Lord’s incredible generosity, when we fail to enjoy him through the gifts he has given us. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we’re told to give thanks in all things or all circumstances, and in Romans 1:21, Paul makes it clear that not giving thanks to God for all that he has generously given is tantamount to rejection of him.
The bottom-line biblical reality is this: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are givers, eternally giving of themselves to one another and overflowing with generosity toward the creation they brought into existence. Even now, in a fallen world, the generosity of the triune God is everywhere. Think about that for a moment. It didn’t stop in the garden. God didn’t pack up shop and turn off the faucet of his great giving nature when Adam and Eve turned their backs on him. Despite Adam and Eve’s stiff arm and our subsequent spurning of him and our refusal to give thanks to him for his incredible generosity, he continues to give and give and give. Every. Day. In a million, million different ways.
It is visible in the sheer variety of trees and plants and flowers that cover the earth. Pause, and just consider them. God does not allow us just one tree, one plant, one flower. No. He gives thousands, as if through them and their beautiful, stately, and seemingly endless variety to display his lavish generosity.
God’s generosity is also recognizable in the sheer variety of tastes and textures we enjoy when we sit down to eat a meal. Pause, and consider the many different kinds of foods you enjoy. Why provide his creatures with such a vast array of different food options and the taste buds to savor all of them if he were not a deeply generous God at heart? Even now. Among countless of his creatures who never once acknowledge his goodness and generosity.
And then, there’s fact that you and I woke up this morning. Gift.
The fact that our hearts are beating and air is filling and exiting our lungs, even as I type and you read. Gift.
The fact that, chances are, you either ate or will eat one or more meals today. Gift.
The fact that have the ability to read this post and the mental faculties to comprehend it. Gift.
The fact that you can probably think quite quickly of people who have influenced, encouraged, and challenged you. Gift.
And what about the ocean breeze that cools you on a sweltering day at the beach? Gift. Or the cozy campfire that warms you through and through as you sit and stare at the stars? Gift. Or the fact that your car has gas in it, four tires on it, and it got you from point A to point B today. Gift.
All of this from the hand of an unspeakably generous God.
But, there’s more. So much more. Someone more.
Indeed, the generosity of God in all his other amazing gifts is simply pointing like a brightly light neon sign toward the climax and crescendo of his generosity — the gift of the Son to sinners, sinners who, having spurned divine generosity in the garden and having since transformed his gifts into gods, deserve nothing less than the full fury of his holy and perfect wrath. And yet. Big hearted Father that he is, with a generosity that surpasses our ability to comprehend, he gives his fallen creatures his one and only beloved Son. His treasured One. And the Son willingly gives himself. He assumes our humanity. He comes to live among us, to be rejected by us, and to die in our place, to take upon himself the penalty for our sin and to give us, in exchange, his righteousness. More than that, to give us himself! Again. The triune God. Overflowing with the kind of generosity that can only be described by the word grace. Undeserved but unreserved.
Truly, if the generosity of God were ever in question, if like Adam and Eve you and I are ever tempted to accuse God of being stingy, of withholding from us some good thing, we need simply turn our eyes to the cross and remember that he has given us that which is most precious to him — his Son — and everything else besides! (Romans 8:32)
Oh, what a giver this God is!
My time in Ruth over the past few weeks has put God’s remarkable generosity front and center, and I admit that I’ve taken notice of it far more closely than I have in a long time. I’ve watched the generosity of Ruth in action. Selflessly, she puts aside any hope of a happy home, a husband, and children, and she gives her life to and for her destitute mother-in-law. I’ve watched the generosity of Boaz in action. Without reservation or hint of selfishness, he offers compassion, protection, kind words, and over-the-top provision to Ruth and Naomi, and he does it all because he (like Ruth) knows the generous God of Israel. These things have made me freshly aware of my Father’s generosity. He is no stingy God. He does not give hesitatingly or sparingly. His is the kindness of a Father who cares deeply for his creatures, especially those of his own household who, through his precious Son, have taken refuge under his wings.
And I’ve also watched Ruth respond with wonder and humility to the generosity of Boaz, and I’ve been challenged by my own woeful response to the generosity of my Father. How strangely easy it is to fall asleep amidst so much goodness and so fail to notice the waterfall of kindness flowing freely and daily from my Father’s hand. Oh, may it be different for you and for me, especially as we approach Thanksgiving. May our response to our Father’s generosity be no less than Ruth’s response to the kindness of Boaz. “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me?” (Ruth 2:10) As we come to see more and more of God’s great generosity, especially through the gift of his Son, may our response be one of ever-increasing humility and grateful worship, recognizing that we deserve nothing from the hand of our Father. And yet, he gives and gives and gives. A million times over. And worth more than all the gifts is the very gift of himself!
In a very real sense, all is gift, for everything we enjoy in this life comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17), and we would do well to cultivate a sense of God’s remarkable generosity for our every breath, our very footstep, our every car ride that concludes in safe arrival to our destination, our every good night’s sleep, our every hug from a friend — and most of all, for the fact that there is forgiveness and reconciliation available to all who will call upon the name of Jesus. It is through him that we enjoy God’s greatest gift – a restored relationship with our Creator. All of this should compel us into joyful thanksgiving, for as Andrew Peterson writes in his song, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone,” in spite of the fact that there is so much wrong here in this fallen world, there is so much that is good, and true, and beautiful, and all of it should lead us to marvel at a generous Father who would continue to place such beauty and bounty before undeserving, ungrateful creatures like you and me.