Is God an Indian Giver?

My apologies in advance to both God and the Indians for this offensive title. But it’s the only way I know to bring up an extremely important theological question. Let me explain…

During the past 12 months, I have had a number of things taken away from me. This has caused me to wrestle with whether Job was correct in this analysis after his devastating losses:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord
(Job 1:20-21).

The subsequent verse endorses Job’s heart to worship the Lord, despite his great distress: “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

But I don’t think this means Job’s theology was always accurate. In fact, the book of Job is filled with misguided theological discourses between Job and his friends, and at the end of the story God dismisses most of their theories as well-intentioned nonsense.

So what about Job’s statement here that the Lord was the one who had taken away his blessings—the same blessings the Lord had given him in the first place? This view is so prominent today that it has even made it into a popular song by Matt and Beth Redman:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, Lord
Blessed be Your name

I’ve always been troubled by those lyrics, in an otherwise great song. They seem to suggest that it’s God’s very nature to give us things, just to delight in later taking them away from us. What a warped, sadistic, and inaccurate view of God’s heart!

I’m sure entire books have been written to address this complicated issue, but let me make it as simple as I can.

Jesus said we have a Heavenly Father who loves to give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:7-11). He certainly didn’t add anything about God then taking away the good things He had just given us. What kind of Father would delight in doing that?

Like any good father, our Father in Heaven wants His children to be blessed. His Word describes Him as a Good Shepherd who lovingly cares for His sheep, even when they face enemies or must travel through dark valleys (Psalm 23). David, the shepherd psalmist, wrote, “The Lord be magnified, who delights in the prosperity of His servant” (Psalm 35:27).

This is God’s very nature, after all. He’s a Lover and a Giver. He so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son—and, thankfully, He never took Him away (John 3:16).

The notion of God as an Indian giver is further debunked by Paul’s powerful statement that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). And Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, [God] remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”

Although I take great comfort in these verses about God’s unwavering faithfulness, that still leaves the question: What are we to do when we suffer unexplainable losses, like Job did? This has happened to all of us at one time or another. It surely seems that God has taken things away from us at times, doesn’t it?

Here are some brief thoughts:

  • Satan is a thief. Notice that when Jesus pointed this out in John 10:10, He never said GOD is a thief! No, our Heavenly Father is the one who wants us to experience an abundant life, not suffer loss. Job didn’t see behind the veil into the spiritual realm, but it was Satan robbing him of his blessings, not God.
  • God WILL prune anything away from our life that is counterproductive to our good. Jesus explained,Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). So, in that sense, God truly DOES “take things away” from our lives—things that are dead branches…things that are toxic…things that have become idols. He may even challenge us to put something precious on the altar, in order to see if our heart is fully His (Genesis 22).
  • In this fallen world, we will sometimes experience losses because of the sinful decisions of other people. We can’t control the choices of others, nor does even God attempt to do that. But even though He may not always shield us from the consequences of other people’s decisions, He often will RESTORE our losses in due time. We see this repeatedly in Scripture, when God enabled His people to take back what an enemy stole (e.g., Genesis 14 and 1 Samuel 30). The Lord even brought about restoration when the “enemy” was a swarm of locusts (Joel 2:25).

Today I encourage you to resolve in your heart that your Heavenly Father loves you greatly and wants to bless you rather than steal from you. Yes, He may remove material possessions or relationships that are not truly blessing your life, but even that is an example of His love.

Although I vehemently disagree with Job’s insinuation that God is an Indian giver, he was definitely right that we should praise the Lord in every circumstance of life (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God is on our side. He delights in blessing us, and we should continually worship and bless Him.

Let’s make sure we are seeing Him correctly today.

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2 thoughts on “Is God an Indian Giver?

  1. I’m in awe of your insight in the freshness of loss! I wish I’d had such wisdom a few years ago. But, thanks be to God, because of the last few years, I can confirm that your words ARE true!!

  2. There’s no other way to see it. He gives and takes away. I don’t care if He takes away anything material, but he takes life. He gives life….takes life. That’s the ultimate in “Indian giving.” A GIFT is exactly that — when a GIFT is given to somebody, the recipient is the new OWNER of the GIFT. GIFTING includes a transfer of OWNERSHIP. I GAVE my wife a $9K++ engagement ring before we got married. It’s hers now. I can’t take it back. That wouldn’t be right — it would, in fact, be stealing. She could give it back to me of her own volition, but I would be a thief to take it back against her will. My father was taken from me via one of the most insidious of diseases — leukemia — at a young age when I was 20 and in college. He was taken away from me, my mother, my siblings, his brother, his in-laws, his friends, his co-workers, his employer, his church, his country, etc…

    My main avocation is playing the guitar, and have played Matt Redmond’s “Blessed be Thy Name” I don’t know how many times. It is a very simple song musically, but the line in the bridge, “You give and take away…” has always bothered me. It made me think of my mom, who finally was taken from us in 2007. I knew it was coming, and was able to accept it then. The whole system on this earth has since come to make zero sense. I see my dad — the BEST MAN I have EVER known — taken from this world for no reason, and people like Hugh Hefner who have contributed greatly to the destruction of morality in the world pushing 90 years old. I never knew my dad to lie, cheat, steal, hate, curse, take God’s name in vain, raise his voice, glorify violence, etc… This kind of injustice seems to be everywhere. One of my best professors in grad school was killed by a driver who fell asleep and crossed into her lane; she was only in her late 20s/early 30s. She was an outstanding professor, and had started a charitable organization to help girls get interested in engineering. She was doing many good things in this world. I don’t see how God can marvel at the state of the world (“…when the Son of Man returns will He find faith on earth?” for example) when He takes the good out and leaves the scumbags to prosper. The filth purveyed by the entertainment industry (movies, popular bands like AC/DC, television, pornography, etc…) seems to flow unimpeded. In my younger days, pornography was well hidden — now it’s practically unavoidable, especially to young people. This culture flat out stinks, and I blame it on the fact that good people are taken out, or terribly impeded by lack of resources, etc…, and evil is given Carte Blanche with more than enough resources — financial and otherwise — that it needs to purvey its filth. I’ve started a number of “good” endeavors, only to get screwed every time. An unmistakable pattern has emerged, and it ain’t pretty.

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