Back to the heart of giving gifts…
We have neighbors that have a beautiful, yet simple nativity scene. It’s white – only white. They set it out in the front of their home and they put a spot light on it so in the dark of the night as you drive by their home you see a simple reminder of Jesus’ birth. They just put it out for the season – we drove by their house yesterday. As we did, my oldest daughter’s jaw dropped and she gasped – “MOM! ALL the nativities are WRONG!” I laughed a little, and I asked, “Why? What do you mean?” She responded – “They always have the Wise Men worshipping around BABY Jesus – He wasn’t a baby when they found him, he was a toddler.”
It was a proud parent moment as I sat with her in that van, one of those gracious moments a parent sees that their child really is listening – I’m pretty sure her Christmas mind has been rattled… Isn’t it interesting how we have a way of adding things…changing things up? It’s just something that happens – we do it in many ways, and every time we recognize it – it magnifies the purpose of us going straight to the word of God to find out HIS truth, His plan – His recordings.
Christmas is a beautiful time of year. It’s a time of giving, where people that may not typically want or feel to give – are compelled to do so. Giving is an intriguing concept. One that some think is just something as a culture we do this time of year, but as Christian’s we understand or need to understand there’s more to…
Jesus is God robed in the flesh – without Him we are nothing – at Christmas time we focus on Him, but just as we must look at the Word of God as a whole, we have to look at the story of His birth as a whole. I want to draw our attention to a piece that we often skip over or minimize, Matthew 2:9-12
Here we read of the wise men and their three gifts – all of which were prophetic of who Jesus is. They presented him with:
Gold, Jesus is King of Kings, worthy of a gift fit for royalty.
Frankincense is a perfume that was used for worship as incense burned as an offering. It was symbolic to the truth that He would be worshiped.
Myrrh is another perfume but this one is associated with death.
Beautiful, powerful, purposeful gifts.
Jesus is God – There is no question – He is deserving of gifts, but have you ever wondered or struggled asking yourself – why we give? Does our giving serve Him?
I heard a quote once that said, “If we don’t understand gifts then we don’t understand grace, If we don’t understand grace, then we don’t understand anything.”
Seeing that statement…can be a bit Earth shaking.
I don’t know that any of us can fully grasp the magnitude of grace, but I feel like I’ve got a pretty good hold on it – the gift giving however, can I tell you, is something I’ve never really understood as I’ve honestly took it on as a bit superficial, materialistic – just not getting it. However, desiring to live for God as much as I can, and NOT understanding the tie in of gifts I decided to seek it out, and what I found took me straight to the Law.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
What we know is this…
Love God – Love your neighbor. They go hand in hand.
What I found is this….When we love and give to people – we are loving God.
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
At Christmas time – we give gifts. But giving isn’t limited to a box wrapped and placed under a tree…it’s so much more.
We are called to be a living sacrifice, to be a living sacrifice we must give of ourselves whether that be of our finances, our time, our patience, our wisdom, experience…tangibly or intangibly.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me for help that required me to give. Can I confess to you that her request, and my response took me by surprise? I found myself not wanting to give as I stood considering the ramifications of my gift.
That was NOT a sacrificial thought, and God graciously reminded me that I didn’t have a need at that time, my friend did, and I had the means to help. Giving can be a struggle in our self-consumed natural state but when we take a moment to step outside of ourselves and look to God’s word we learn that giving is an extension of our love to God, and a reflection of his gifts to us.
His goodness to us should be a catalyst to our giving. We should be able to look at all He has provided – understand it is all given through His provision and distribute that same giving to those around us… but we struggle… and just as I struggled with whether I wanted to help my friend or not, we struggle in different aspects of our own giving.
3 struggles of giving.
- Giving with a Judas heart – We do this when we hold back, or give unwillingly. We don’t want to give because – that means less for us. I was like that with my friend – and the moment I realized that is a Judas heart – I wanted to be sick. Judas’ greedy heart led him to betray the God of the universe…
- Giving to get. These are gifts to our neighbor given merely for selfish gain, leaving God out of it completely. That is not love, and God sees through to our heart.
- Giving to God only – This is a, “I’m only giving to the Church mentality.” It is honorable and necessary to give to Church, but when we forget about our neighbor, we miss all together the fact that God placed us in our own realm of influence purposed to leave an impact to those directly around us – our neighbor.
So how do we give right?
It’s so important that we learn to give right, within our means thoughtfully, generously, and intelligently, prayerfully– when we do we bring glory to God as we uphold His law by loving God, and loving others.
Those wise men… Their thoughts were intentional, generous, and intelligent. They knew what Jesus’ birth meant. They knew who he was. They had read the prophesy, and knew his birth was fulfillment.
They gave…and we give. And just as they gave to our Savior – we give to our Savior, by loving on those around us, and loving Him just the same.
This Christmas Season, I encourage you to go straight back to His word remembering its purpose – rethink those gifts as your out and about scurrying to be sure everyone on your list has a gift waiting under that gorgeously decorated tree. Be thoughtful, be intentional, be generous, but most of all be prayerful, and give out of love – love for God, love for people, and when we do, may we experience the extravagant love ushered in by this beautiful time of year.