Jesus is the greatest gift there is. That is a staple of Christian theology, not to mention Christmas cards. Yet as soon as we hear this statement, we’re apt to collapse it into a statement about some other gift, like salvation. Being given Jesus, in our minds, quickly morphs into being given forgiveness, or rescue, or eternal life. Jesus himself, the gift who perfectly embodies God’s generosity and goodness, gets bumped to the third page.
The Gospels don’t do that. From his Incarnation to his Ascension, Jesus Christ puts the liberality and largesse of God on display. It is not just at the Cross, or even in the Resurrection, that Jesus represents the grace, the gift-giving-ness, of God to us. In every miracle, every parable—simply by being in the world at all—Jesus is proclaiming, “God is good, he loves giving, and I’m here, among other things, to prove it.”
Many parables in the Gospels present God as an irrepressible giver, even when the parable has other goals. Once there was a farmer who scattered seed so liberally that most of it didn’t take root. Once there was a king who forgave a debt of 10,000 talents (millions of dollars today). Once there was a vineyard owner who gave people far more than their work was worth. Once there was a father who gave away half his estate to his rebellious son—and then gave him a feast when he came crawling back, having wasted it all. Once there was a nobleman who gave three months’ wages to all his employees, and then went on a foreign trip. Once there was a landowner who gave his vineyard over to tenants. Once there was a king who gave wedding invitations to every undesirable in the county.
It is hard to think of a parable ...1