What do you have that you have not received?

This question appears almost as a throwaway line in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:7). But it points to one of the most deeply important things about who we are as human beings. We are creatures. We have been created, which means that we do not have life in ourselves, but our life comes as a pure gift from the Lord, the giver of life. At every moment, we owe our existence entirely to God’s act.

Moreover, as human creatures, so much of who and what we are comes to us from others; we receive who we are as a gift. Your parents gave themselves to each other and became one flesh in you. You learned how to speak by hearing your parents and others speak and sing and sigh. The opportunities you have had in your life have presented themselves to you. And your abilities to make what you have made of those opportunities — those also you have received.

What do you have that you have not received?

Everything you are and have comes as a gift from God. It’s a very un-American idea. We like the idea that we are self-made. But Holy Scripture teaches us who we are, and this is a very good thing. Because it teaches us who, and whose, we are: we are the Lord’s creatures.

As the Lord’s creatures, we are, by our very existence, drawn toward the one who gives us life. “O God, you are my God,” prays the psalmist, “eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1). This is a prayer we pray just by being alive. We thirst for communion with God, whether we are consciously aware of this or not. Always the Lord calls you to seek your life in him.

Of course, because of the damage of sin, we do not regularly make this our conscious prayer. Instead we are habitually turned away from the Lord, going purposely into those barren and dry lands where there is no water. And in so doing, we only deepen our thirst.

But the Lord is always in front of us, calling to us, reminding us of the source of our life. The Lord calls first through the people of Israel — the people that exist by God’s promise to an ancient and childless man with a barren wife — and comes to meet us with outstretched arms in the person of Jesus. The Lord calls also through the lives of the saints, and through all that is good and true and beautiful. Indeed, as Augustine recognized, the Lord calls to us in all things: “for if anyone could hear them, this is what all of them would be saying, ‘We did not make ourselves, we were made by him who abides for eternity’ [Ps. 79:3, 5]” (Confessions 9.10.25). Always and everywhere the Lord calls us to himself.

You are the Lord’s creature. Cultivate your desire and love for him — and you will find your life and your joy. For what do you have that you have not received?

About The Author

The Rev. Christopher Yoder serves as curate at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Texas. He grew up in a Mennonite church and on a dairy farm in the hills of western Pennsylvania.

He received his undergraduate degree in philosophy and theology from Wheaton College, where he took his first steps on the Canterbury trail. He discerned a vocation to the priesthood while studying at Duke Divinity School, earning his MDiv in 2012.

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