Today is my daughter’s birthday party. Christmas is just around the corner. So giving is on a lot of our minds right now.
Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us —I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 NLT
Paul in his second letter to the believers in Corinth offers them constructive criticism. It reminds me immediately of a recurring theme, whether in his letters to Timothy, or the warnings for the 7 churches in Revelation, or in the way that he patterns most of his letters. And isn’t this the way of the Holy Spirit, the way of God towards those that He loves and that love Him in return? He doesn’t sit on the mountaintop waiting for an opportunity to destroy us, but He draws close to us and gives to us graciously.
And the best gifts that He gives to us are not the things of this world, but they are gifts and treasures eternal. The best gifts that He brings to us are things like grace, mercy, peace, patience, joy, love, hope, faith – because these things are not common, nor are they cheap. All of them come at a heavy price, and, He is gracious and teaches us through His costly love for us how we are meant to love one another.
So today, there will be presents that we give our daughter that we have bought, and that are things of this world – and we are happy and gracious and thankful to be able to provide for her. But the greatest gifts that we will give her today is in introducing her to those gifts eternal. We will teach her that the loving people sharing in the celebration with her are far more valuable than the presents and the cake. We will demonstrate to her that helping those we know are in need today is more important than piles of presents under the Christmas tree.
And we won’t do this because it is an obligation, or that we feel commanded by some religious commitment to do these things. We will do it because we want her to have the best gifts. We want her to receive and know and recognize those gifts that come from God that are so much more valuable than stuff and things that the world tries to sell us in a commercial.
Generosity is the inevitable result of grattitude. And gratitude is the inevitable response of someone who receives something that they do not expect or “deserve” or “feel entitled to”. And do you see how if we got our hope, our attitudes in line with seeking God’s nature of generosity and gratitude in our own lives that these two will feed each other? Can you imagine how quickly these two traits could set fire to the nations with the loving example of true Christian living? With one’s generosity feeding another’s grattitude, and their grattitude fueling their flame to pass it on in generosity towards another?
But if we don’t see past the presents, we will never see the flame. If we don’t see past the obligation of buying a gift for each person and instead see an opportunity to be generous and loving towards each other – won’t we miss an opportunity?
And don’t think that I’m encouraging you to go into debt spending money outside of what a responsible budget allows – I’m talking about the most excellent gifts that you can give. Isn’t it better for us to give our love, and to encourage hope, and to offer our time and attention to the needs in each others lives than to add to the piles of things cluttering our homes? Yes, this perspective and attitude takes more time, more focus, more effort, more actual caring for others – but isn’t that the very point?
Do we want to give the best gifts today? Or are we weary and just ready to get it all over with? Let’s be honest with ourselves and understand the opportunity we are missing out on by not feeding that self propelling engine of grattitude and generosity working side by side with one another.
Look for opportunities today to be generous, friend. Help someone who cannot repay you. Show love even to someone who may not “deserve it”. Offer forgiveness to that person that hurt you even though they aren’t sorry about it. And not because it’s a commandment and a requirement, but because you know that is exactly what Christ has done for you.
May God bless your life today with the best gifts, those blessings eternal, friend.