White elephant

I’ve always loved the imagery that comes with Christ’s title as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). It wonderfully captures both Jesus’ authority and character. His authority, being Prince as the Son of God, and His character, as the provider of the gift of peace. We foremost regard our call for peace in terms of ‘peace on earth,’ for wars to stop and countries to come to good terms, but we often don’t realize how desperately we need deep, inner peace. 

People spend most of their days with the weight of their life expectations on them—their academics, job, income, relationships, popularity, social status, achievements, appearance. We get so caught up in these things, placing them at the top of our to-do list, yet unable to ever check them all off. It’s an exhausting and unavoidably disappointing cycle. These worldly attractions catch our attention with flashiness, flagging us down and telling us, “Look here! This will make you happy! This will give you meaning!” 

Receiving gifts from the world is like a game of white elephant. Everyone crowds around, hoping by luck of the draw to be dealt a good number. Players make the choice between choosing their own unrevealed gift, with the possibility of disappointment, or settling for stealing someone else’s gift. And even if a player is satisfied with what they have received, their gift also is up for grabs at any point in the game. The term “white elephant” actually comes from the tale of the King of Siam who gave literal white elephants to those who displeased him because although they seem like a luxurious present, their upkeep was taxing and outweighed the reward of the possession itself. 

The gifts of the world are just like that. The gifts of the world appear flashy and appealing until they soon lose their taste. The gifts of the world require burdensome maintenance. The gifts of the world lead to unrest and comparison. Yet our souls become so attuned to this false advertising all around us that we lose sight of the simple, beautiful story of the gospel. 

Truth does not need some extra polish to attract attention to itself. Standing alone, the humble birth of Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection are more than enough to satisfy us wholly in ways that the world is unable to. From a virgin birth in a stable, to the upbringing of a Nazarene carpenter boy, to the undeserved persecution and death of the Savior who turned the other cheek when faced with adversity, Jesus put on humility, though still as God, in human form: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

The other night, I was reading John 14 which put this into words beautifully: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) 

This instantly made me think, “How does the world give?” Does it give like Jesus gives, wholly and sacrificially and loyally? Or does the world give momentarily and deceitfully and unreliably?

The gifts that Jesus gives we never have to second guess. The gifts that Jesus gives we never have to compare with others because He gives to each of us what He knows we need. Jesus has already fulfilled the promises He made so that we need only to accept them with open arms. 

I want to end with a reflection on the free peace that God gives to those who come to Him from the book of Philippians. I hope this will remind you that this peace, which is incomparable to anything the world can offer, is accessible to us at all times through communication and a relationship with our Savior. What could be a more accessible yet valuable gift?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
—Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭6‬-‭7‬

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