December 21, 2020 |
In mid-December, a six- year-old reconnected with my sweetie at our small group meeting in our home. He had not seen Steve for quite some time but that didn’t matter. They always pick up where they left off. Steve is very welcoming of children & they gravitate toward him. This little guy hadn’t been in the house 5 minutes when he spouted, “Are you going to get me a present for Christmas?” I smiled to myself as I overheard from the kitchen, remembering the previous week’s discussion about the attitude of entitlement that surfaces naturally in us all.
I do not blame kids, or anyone else for that matter, for getting excited about presents. But no matter who you are, or how old you are, heart attitude & motives are revealed through actions & reactions. It seems to me that the expectation of receiving often overrides the joy of giving, despite Jesus Himself saying that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) He would know. His entire earthly existence was an expression of love, culminating in the greatest sacrificial gift to date. He was the Ultimate Giver, dying to redeem a world of takers…including you & me.
We are a product of our experience & choices. When it comes to what we believe about giving & receiving (money, time, personal assistance), what is caught in modeled attitudes often nullifies what is taught in words. We can easily, sometimes unknowingly, foster negative entitlement attitudes in our recipients. Good intentions, expressed in excess, are a detriment to the receiver. Too much (of anything) can easily become what is expected, & morphs into the unappreciated. Then sadly, what was once “special” becomes something “you owe me.” Apart from God, our unbridled flesh is never satisfied. It never will be.
Left to ourselves, this heart dilemma would grow to be an overriding, suffocating pattern in our lives. Let’s be honest. We are natural takers. We are born overwhelmingly needy… & selfish, watching out for “me,” & making decisions that are in the best interest of “me.” We have a natural attitude of entitlement. Ironically, both extremes, living indulged or living in need, can foster a focus on satisfying self. Since selfishness generally throws gratitude to the wind, it is attitude, not what you have, that determines a true giver.
Jesus proved that you do not need money to be a contributor. By worldly standards, he lived in poverty & had no place to lay His head. (Luke 9:58) He lived every day, giving 24/7, all the while trusting His Father for His plan & His care. Extreme love led Him to the Cross, where He gave His all to pay our all. Though money is helpful, what is required to be a radical giver is a heart change. Humble dependence replaces prideful sufficiency… Christ first replaces me first. Jesus was the real deal! He modeled the pure motivation (love) & sacrificial attitude (commitment) of authentic giving. He willingly & freely gives that to all who receive His life at salvation. It is amazing, isn’t it?? Truly, a “mystery.” (Col 1:26&27) The greatest present we will EVER receive in our entire lives, is His presence…God with/in us through His Spirit. No one can take Him from us.
Presents are a central focus in celebrating many occasions…Christmas, birthdays, weddings, graduations, & anniversaries. The list goes on. I have contemplated what might happen if our motivation for giving was to reflect His presence? My intention is not to spiritualize tangible gifts. We all know that the things that matter most cannot be bought with money. But God knows the why behind all expressions of giving. If we are giving to feel good about ourselves, or out of obligation, or from guilt to make someone feel better, then we have missed the intention of Christ’s heart completely. God sees our hearts & knows when our reasons for giving are selfish & therefore, empty. People might not, but He does.
Physical presents are fun, but temporary. His Presence is forever. Gifts wear out & sometimes break. We can even outgrow them. The indwelling Life of Christ never grows old & is continually renewing us daily. We never outgrown it. It naturally follows that grateful receivers of His love would become faithful & joyful expressors of His Life. Have a Giving New Year!