Christmas is so much fun! I love purchasing just the right gift for that special person! This is all well and good, but it’s so hard to do!!!

Some people just won’t tell you what they really want, leaving us to make a guess and hope we got it right. Others tell us what they think we might be willing to give, but actually hope for bigger and better. When we’ve been truly worn out trying to find that perfect gift, we usually just pick something. ANYTHING will do if we can just be done!

Following are some thoughts on giving that might help you find your focus when you’re shopping for your loved ones and friends.

It is a privilege to bring joy to another. Watching their eyes as they open their gift, seeing their reaction, and knowing you succeeded in blessing them makes all those long shopping hours worthwhile! Giving isn’t a burden when done with the right heart attitude. Consider some of the aspects of gift giving we often don’t think about…

Is there a sacrifice associated with the gift?

A young teenager from India recently wrote to thank us for our faithful donation to support her education. Writing of her gratitude for our “sacrifice” made me instantly ashamed. As a part of our modern, affluent society, we had sacrificed nothing. What we sent in aid amounted to a meal at a fast food restaurant. We gave up nothing that mattered. I was instantly reminded of the verse in 2 Samuel 24:24:

“…neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.”
While our puny gift was not directly given unto the Lord, His Word tells us that anything we do for others is as though we had done it unto Him.

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25: 37-40
Our young friend in India is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

“For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” Mark 9:41

Will our gift make the recipient uncomfortable?

A Sunday School class we belonged to years ago decided to provide Christmas gifts to a poor, minority family in our church. This lady was a single mother with several children. She had felt the call of the Lord to begin a children’s Bible class in her neighborhood. She needed supplies as well as gifts for her children, but she didn’t have the money necessary to make her purchases. Our class resolved to include supplies for her children’s class in her Christmas box. My husband and I took on the task of collecting the wrapped gifts and then delivering them on the appointed day.

My, they were all so gaily wrapped! So many interesting shapes and sizes! I knew the children would be so excited when they received their gifts! However, I felt a growing unease as I sorted through the various boxes trying to make sure each person had the same number of gifts. (Children don’t always understand that an equal dollar value may be applied to the gifts given for each child, but that they might not equal the same number of gifts. Numbers seem to be important to children.) I told my husband that I was concerned about the gifts. I had felt the boxes and weighed them, and they didn’t seem right. Call it intuition, but we decided to unwrap the gifts and look to see what had been given.

One box contained black construction paper-the kind that comes with sheet protectors, complete with holes. One box contained some used clothing that was showing some wear and tear. Another contained a very cheap toy that would have been broken in minutes. We became more and more alarmed as we continued opening the gifts. Added to that was our growing anger, disappointment, and shame. Anyone opening these gifts would have been terribly disappointed and hurt.

In hindsight, I know that the Lord moved us to check the gifts. Jesus loved this family and wanted to provide for them. He wanted us to be His instruments, using our abundance to meet their needs. Our class had forgotten that the abundance we enjoyed was a blessing from Him. We attended a large church where the members were mostly white collar workers. They could easily have afforded to provide for this family. They didn’t.

We decided to take the gifts of supplies that had been wrapped so prettily and leave them unwrapped. That way, they could not be mistaken for personal presents. Then we matched gifts to each family member, and made up a list of other items that we could purchase including those items that were needed for the children’s class. Items that were obviously well used, we didn’t wrap as presents. Frequently consulting the mother’s wish list, we knew sizes, color preferences, etc. She had provided this list at the request of our class in an effort to make our shopping easier, for few in our group actually knew this family.

As we shopped and wrapped, a new joy overcame us. The anger and shame was forgotten. We knew that this time, the gifts that were wrapped were given as “unto the Lord”. This precious family would be abundantly provided for!

We never said anything to the members of our class. We understood that prejudice had stood in the way of compassion. Having only been attending this church a short time, we decided that this was not the place for us, and moved on.

“A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.” Proverbs 17:8

Do we give so we can gain favors from others?

Over the years, we have learned some important lessons about gift giving. First and foremost our giving should be “as unto the Lord”. We need to periodically check our motives to discover if our heart attitude is righteous. Asking ourselves these questions will help us to determine our heart attitude.

Why is this gift being given?

Do we feel an obligation to give?

Is there a need?

Sometimes we give gifts in order to make a business conquest. I remember when working as a receptionist that there were numerous gifts brought to our office at Christmas time for the “gals”. They were wonderful! Samplers of candy, specialty cakes, and other assorted treats made the arrival of salesmen a time of expectation and excitement. Salesmen were currying our favor, hoping to gain admittance to the inner offices of our executives. Sometimes it worked!

“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16
Then there is gift giving in order to smooth offenses. Husbands bring flowers and candy and hopefully a repentant heart when they realize the wife is angry!

“A gift in secret pacifieth anger…” Proverbs 21:14
Giving should be done with love, not in expectation of reimbursement. So often, our love seems to be measured in what we spend. This ought not to be so, for there are few of us who can actually afford to demonstrate our love in such costly ways. Gifts should be looked upon as but a small token of our love. Often times, there are those who should not be buying expensive gifts because their budget cannot afford it. Gift giving sometimes brings an obligation to others to respond in kind. When that isn’t possible, guilt results.

“Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.” Proverbs 19:6
We are living in an affluent society. Sacrificing for a trinket or two at Christmas doesn’t come under the same heading as providing out of our abundance to help those in need. Maybe if we were busy giving more to those truly in need, we would have less abundance with which to buy unneeded trinkets. It’s something to think about.

Let’s remember that the greatest gift of all is the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23b)

Inspirational writer and photographer.

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