Text Illustrations
A preacher had once to illustrate the free nature of God’s gift of salvation. They stood in the pulpit one morning held up a poinsettia plant and said: “Whoever wants this beautiful Christmas poinsettia may have it. All you have to do is take it.”

They stared at me. I waited. And waited.

Finally a mother timidly raised her hand and said, “I’ll take it.”

“Great!” said the preacher, “It’s yours.”

But to my astonishment, she nudged her son, “Go get it for me.”

“No,” I said. “Whoever wants this gift must come and get it personally. You can’t send a substitute.”

She shook her head, not willing to risk embarrassment. I waited again. It was a gorgeous flower, unusually large, wrapped in red cellophane with a gold satin ribbon. It was set in front of the pulpit to brighten our small sanctuary during the holiday season. Several people had commented on how beautiful the plant was. Now it was free for the taking.

Someone snickered, “What’s the catch?”

“No catch,” I replied. “It’s free.” No one moved.

A college student asked, “Is it glued to the altar?” Everyone laughed.

“It is not glued to the altar. Nor are there any strings attached. It’s yours for the taking.”

“Well,” asked a pretty teenager, “can I take after the service?”

I shook my head. “You must come and get it now.”

(I was beginning to wish I’d never started the whole thing, when a woman I’d never seen before stood up in the back.) Quickly, as if she were afraid she’d change her mind, she strode to the altar and picked up the plant. “I’ll take it,” she said.

As she returned to her seat carrying the free gift, I launched with enthusiasm into my text, Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “The gift of God is eternal life! It’s free”.

When the service had ended and most of the people had gone home, the woman who claimed the poinsettia came to the platform, where I was picking up my Bible to leave.

“Here!” she held out her hand. “This flower is too pretty to just take home for free. I couldn’t do that with a clear conscience.”

I looked down at the crumpled paper she stuffed into my hand. It was a ten dollar bill.


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