We went through lots of different phases of gift giving when I was growing up. I remember one time when my siblings and I woke up on Christmas morning to find the living room transformed into a child’s wonderland of carefully arranged toy sets (put together by my parents the night before). But our parents also didn’t want to cultivate greed in us kids so we tried times where we focused more on other aspects of family and traditions and just gave small gifts in stockings. As a parent now it can be hard to know how to balance gift giving with my own family and kids.
Gift giving can be a slightly controversial topic during Christmas time especially among the church. We see so many abuses and experience the extreme commercialization of Christmas (advertisements seem to come out earlier and earlier!). We understandably try to save Baby Jesus from being smothered and forgotten by our piles of presents and wrapping paper. And it is a legitimate concern. But if we can step away from everything everybody else makes about gift giving and presents I think it would be helpful to just think a moment about what God thinks of gift giving. Here are four things to consider and keep in mind this Christmas season.
- God is the Ultimate giver of gifts. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” A gift is something freely given to someone without requiring payment. All the good things we enjoy around us; fresh air, sunshine, delicious food, family, and health, aren’t something we receive a monthly bill for. God delights to give us good gifts. He gave us the greatest Gift in his Son, Jesus. And since we are made in His image and are His ambassadors the act of giving gifts is a way we can reflect his character to the world around us.
- Gift giving is a key part of the spiritual economy. For the most part we live in a society of consumers. We are told that to prosper we must acquire and get more stuff. But God’s economy is different. In God’s economy, the more we give, the more we are entrusted with. “Give, and it will be given to you. . . For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) Not that gift giving should be done with a selfish heart, but it is actually a way we can be faithful with what God has given us. God is a shrewd investor, and if we don’t use what he has given us to bless others He will find another place to invest.
- Spending resources on relationships increases our value of them. My mother-in-law once told me that I would never regret money spent on my relationship with my wife. And so far it has proved true. Jesus said that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (Luke 12:34) While it is true that the place someone spends their treasure indicates where their heart is, it is also true that where we want our heart to be, that is where we should invest our treasure. So if we find our heart not being as drawn to our wife, or to God, then we just need to find some way to practically spend money and time on them. The more we spend on something, the more we treasure it. Gift giving can be a way to help us value important relationships even more.
- Generosity is how we invest in eternity. (1 Timothy 6:17-19) We can’t take anything with us to heaven. But we can transfer funds to heaven. And one way we can do that is through giving it away. Jesus said to store up treasure in heaven. In Proverbs we are told that he who is generous to the poor lends to the Lord. If done with a truly selfless and generous heart gift giving shows that we are living with Eternity in mind.
I am by nature a very bad gift giver. Probably because I struggle with being a very selfish person. But I am trying to learn from God and others around me how to live with a generous spirit. When it’s all about the getting, then gifts can distract us from the very things that offer us real satisfaction and joy. But I am learning that when it’s all about the giving, then gifts can help us represent God, be faithful stewards of what we have been given, value our important relationships more, and store up treasures in Heaven! I pray that God helps me to become an expert Gift giver.