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Three Gifts from God’s Treasures

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 2:4

God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience are abundant, and all people benefit from them. Enjoying these common blessings, however, does not grant immunity from His righteous judgment. In fact, these blessings should draw us to Him in repentance.


William Sangster was pastoring in England when the Titanic sank. He recounted this interesting story from that terrible and shocking disaster.

A frightened woman on the Titanic found her place in the lifeboat that was about to be dropped into the raging North Atlantic. She thought suddenly of something she needed in light of death breathing down her neck. She asked for permission to go to her state room. She was granted just a moment or so, or they would have to leave without her.

She ran across a deck that was already at a dangerous angle. She ran through the gambling room that had money piled up in one corner ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and there on the shelf above her bed was a jewelry box filled with precious gems. She shoved it aside and instead grabbed three small oranges from that shelf and then ran back to the lifeboat and climbed onboard.

Pastor Sangster writes that death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment, she preferred oranges to diamonds.[1]

The truth is, tragedy helps us see more clearly what truly matters in life. The greater tragedy is that many never do. They are busy collecting diamonds on a ship that is soon going to sink.

In the book of Romans, Paul has explained the guilt and foolishness of immoral people in chapter 1. In chapter 2 he is in the process of describing the guilt and sinfulness of moral, respectable people. Later, in chapter 3 he will describe the guilt and sinfulness of religious people. Paul is effectively making the case that all the world stands guilty before a holy God.

Now, here in chapter 2, the apostle Paul asks a rhetorical question in verse 4:

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

They are presuming, Paul writes, on the kindness of God’s patience. The word here for “presume” means, “to look down on” or “despise.” So, the respectable, moral unbeliever is actually looking down on God. Have you heard him talking about God in the office or in school, “I can’t imagine God doing the things you say the Bible says He does. . . . Surely God wouldn’t be foolish enough to judge the world. . . . If I were God, I would never say or teach those things.” In other words, “I am so much better and even smarter than God!”

And in their self-righteous arrogance, look what they are missing out on. Verse 4 speaks of the gifts of God’s riches. Paul mentions three gifts, or treasures, the moral but unbelieving person looks down on—in fact, he does not even really notice them as he chases after diamonds of temporary value.

The first treasure from God is the gift of kindness. The Greek word for “kindness” (chrēstotēs) is often translated “goodness.”

This takes you all the way back to the first acts of God’s goodness, in Genesis 1. At the end of each of the six days of creation, God said that what He had just created was “good.”

And that means all persons who live on this planet have experienced the goodness of God, whether they realize it or not. You can refer to the goodness of God as the common goodness, or common grace. In Matthew 5:45, we read that God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall “on the just and on the unjust.”

One of the amazing things about God’s kindness is that unbelievers experience it with every sunrise and every rain shower! But the moral unbeliever looks down his nose at the goodness of God and refuses to thank Him.

If I were God, it would be different. That neighbor who made fun of you for being a Christian—well, I would make sure it never rained on his front yard. He would never be able to grow any grass at all. But God does not do that, does He? In fact, your neighbor’s lawn might look better than yours. One of the amazing riches of God’s grace is that it extends to unbelievers.

The second gift Paul mentions here from the heart of God toward all mankind is the gift of “forbearance.” This word comes from the Greek verb that means, “to hold back.” So, in this verse, it suggests that God is holding back His judgment.

God could judge man immediately for his sinful arrogance, and judgment is coming; but God is graciously holding it in reserve until that final judgment day.

Now the third gift from God’s riches is “patience,” or long-suffering. The Greek word is makrothumia. The first part of the word is “macro,” which is a prefix we use today to speak of something that is big or great. God’s patience is great.

I think of the atheist Bob Ingersoll who used to travel around holding rallies in the late 1800s. He would stand on a stage and announce that God did not exist. This was quite shocking in those days, and he usually gathered quite a crowd. He would take out his pocket watch and say, “If there is a God, let Him strike me dead in thirty seconds.” And he would hold it up and count down the seconds. People would hold their breath. At the end of thirty seconds, he was still standing, and he would say, “See, I told you; there is no God.”   

If I were God, at the last second of that countdown, you would see some lightning and that man would be turned into a little pile of ashes.

The point is, God does not lose his patience in thirty seconds—or thirty years. The fact that judgment does not come immediately is not proof of His nonexistence; it is proof of His patience.

Now in the final words of Romans 2:4, we are given the goal of God’s riches. Paul effectively asks this question: “Don’t you know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

The word translated “repentance” literally means a change of mind—you change your mind about your sin, about your life, about your priorities; in fact, you change your mind about God. You no longer look down your nose at Him; you love Him and worship Him.

God’s kindness and patience are designed to draw you to repentance. I like the way one writer put it: God has chosen to use a cross, not a club.[2] And the arms of the Savior stretch outward from that cross, as if to say, “Whosoever will, may come.”

Do you take lightly the riches of these three treasures—His gifts of kindness and forbearance and patience? If you are not a believer, the kindness of God has been extended to you today in allowing you to still be alive and breathing. You have heard the truth of God’s love through Jesus Christ. Will you defy Him and ignore Him or, right now, ask Him to be your Lord and Savior?

Now if you are a Christian, it is possible to become distressed by circumstances and start to think that God is not so kind after all. We tend to define God’s goodness and kindness by a few weeks or months or years, rather than in the light of an entire lifetime.

We will understand it better by and by, the old hymn says. One day we will look back over our lives and join with the psalmist David in singing of the fulfillment of the last line of Psalm 23: “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me, all the days of my life.” What do you know? And best of all, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

[1] Cited in Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Word Publishing, 1998), 469.

[2] Roy L. Laurin, Romans: Where Life Begins (Kregel Publications, 1988), 64.

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