Have you got your shopping done yet?
How many of you have asked or been asked this question in the past week? I’m sure we all have! I think this is the biggest feat we face at Christmas time in today’s society.
Think about it. Gift giving probably consumes more time and energy (and definitely more money) than anything else associated with Christmas. We spend hours searching for parking spaces at the malls, we shop till we drop, then we spend hours wrapping the gifts. But don’t think Walmart, TJ Maxx, or JC Penney invented the gift giving concept. No, they’ve just jumped on the bandwagon and ran it amuck!
James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” We love because God first loved us and we give because God first gave. It is God who gave us breath in our nostrils. It is God who gave us eyes to see. Now, with those eyes, look around you. Every good thing as far as the eyes can see came from Him!
But the greatest gift God has ever given us was His Son, Jesus Christ – the Messiah. John 3:16, perhaps the most quoted bible verse of all time, says it beautifully:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Because He gave, we can live! This is what Christmas is all about!
God is a Giver! He made us in His image and we have His very nature within us; therefore, as Christians, we also are givers! Jesus calls us to pour out what He has poured into us. We are simply vessels delivering the very essence of God into those around us. The more we give, the more He will pour in us! We can never out give God!
But what is the difference between the Christian who is called to give and the Philanthropist who also gives? The answer lies in motivation.
Think for a moment about all the areas where you currently give. Many of us give to the church through our tithes and offerings. Many give to our loved ones. Many drop money in the Salvation Army buckets. Many give to various charities of which we feel passionate about. Now ponder the following questions for a moment and reflect about your own motivation when it comes to giving…
- Are there conditions associated with your giving?
- Are there feelings of superiority associated with your giving?
- Are you giving to bolster your self worth?
- Are you giving to draw attention to you and the gift you gave?
- Are you giving because you feel pressured to give?
- Are you giving to get something in return?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may need to reevaluate your motivation for giving.
Timothy Keller in his book, “Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism,” says, “Christians’ motivation for the alleviation of poverty, inequality, and suffering is agape, the extension of the radical love we have received from God and offer to others… Christian agape motivates benevolence through humbling us, showing us that we are loved sinners, so that spending ourselves for others is not to be based on a sense of superiority but on having been shown our own lack.”
Paul also spoke of this in 1 Corinthians 13:3. “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor… but do not have love, I am nothing.”
It is important to note, our giving is not limited to material things. I love the story from Acts 3 where Peter and John healed the lame beggar on their way up to the temple to pray. The man who had been lame from birth sat at the temple gate everyday begging for alms. When he asked Peter and John for money, they replied, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth – walk!” Wow! That’s something money can’t buy! That’s priceless!
Whatever we give, God wants us to give willingly as his heart moves him (Exodus 25:2). Essentially, if your heart isn’t in it, your giving for the wrong reasons. 2 Corinthians 9:7 reiterates this same model of giving. “Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
So as you are giving your gifts and contributions this Christmas season and always, be sure your heart is in it! Be sure you are giving cheerfully! Be sure your giving is motivated by love! When we give rightly, we are laying up treasures in heaven!
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” –Matthew 6:19-21