A loving and generous Father once bought his son a shiny new bicycle. With a broad smile, the Father surprised the son and rolled it out and handed it to him.
Strangely, rather than looking happy, the son looked anxious. Rather than riding the bike, he stepped away from it in fear.
The Father asked the child what was wrong. The son replied, “Father, I cannot ride the bike. All around the world there are missionaries who do not have a bike. I would like to give them my bike so that they can ride it to unreached peoples and preach the gospel. The Father replied, “If you simply ask me, I am glad to also give you a second bike to give to a missionary.”
Yet, rather than simply riding the bike, the son continued to argue with his Father, saying, “I would much prefer an older bicycle. This one is shiny and new. It makes me look proud if I ride it.” The Father explained, “If I want you to ride the bike I gave you, and you are more concerned about what others think of you as you ride it than my joy in seeing you enjoy my gift to you, then you may look humble to them, but I know there is pride in your heart because you are living for their approval instead of my joy.”
Unrelenting, the son said, “But some people will talk about my bicycle out of judgment, envy, or jealousy because it is so nice. Some might even stumble and covet my bicycle. I do not want them to sin, and so I would rather not have a new bike so as to be considerate of them.” The Father replied, “If others respond to my grace to you in this way, the problem is not the bicycle but their hearts. I will deal with their hearts should they prove sinful—something you assume will happen but do not know. I will love and serve them by working to change their heart if they respond sinfully. But for you, my request is that you simply ride the bicycle I gave you. You are thinking about it too much and enjoying it too little.”
The Father walked away for a few hours, kindly asking the son to consider his request. Upon returning, the son had yet another line of reasoning. “Father, I will not ride the bike because I am fearful. I fear that it is so nice and I would enjoy it so much that it would become an idol to me. So, to avoid idolatry I will abstain from riding the bicycle.” The Father replied, “You could also ride your bike as an act of worship to me, enjoying the gift I gave you to your joy and my glory. Once again, the problem is not the bicycle.”
The son replied, “But Father, you are better than any bicycle. You are enough. I do not need a bicycle. I have you. You, Father, are enough.”
Grieved in his heart, the Father said, “I know I am enough. But I am a generous Father. I like to give gifts to my children. I like to see them blessed, happy, and free. I just wanted to watch you ride the bike. And I wanted to go for a ride with you. Then, we could have had fun, spend time together, make memories, and laugh.”
Tragically, the son never did ride the bicycle. Instead, he gave it away. He did not cause anyone to stumble, or treat his bike as an idol. And he did not obey his Father and worship him by simply being a kid and enjoying the gift his Father gave him because he was too busy being a theologian with a head full of fears rather than a heart full of fun.