[The following devotional is a part of our 2014 Advent Devotional Guide. We will be posting a devotional each day on this blog between November 30 – December 31, 2014.]
Gifts by Mark Robinson
Read: Matthew 2:1-12
No doubt, many of you have gone shopping this Christmas season. As you shop, you are guided by a list of names of people you want to buy a gift for. On this list are friends and family that you genuinely want to bless this holiday season. The problem, however, is what kind of a gift do you give them? We would like to think that the gifts we give are guided by our love and/or a principle of reciprocity. However, there is a problem with each of these principles.
First of all, though we might like to think that our giving is guided by our love, our love is usually limited by our budget. After all, we typically have more love in our heart than money in our bank accounts. Therefore, even if we have a “million dollar” love for our family members, we will probably get them a $30 shirt from TJ Maxx.
Second, there is an issue with reciprocity. By reciprocity, I mean that you try to give a gift back to someone of equal value to what they have given to you in the past. This principle, however, is also flawed. I can never pay back my parents (for instance) for all they have done for me. No sweater (I don’t care which logo is on it) can ever equal sitting through little league games in 40 degree weather or caring for me when I was sick or providing love, food, and shelter for me throughout my growing up days. I simply will never be able to pay back what has been given to me — I have just received so much.
I was thinking about all this and it reminded me of a deep spiritual truth that impacts my understanding of God’s love for me and my response to that love towards Him.
First of all, though our budget always constrains our ability to give, it never constrains God. God is the only One anywhere who has no budget. Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have their limits, but God does not. He has everything at His disposal, so He never tires at ways to demonstrate His love for us. The obvious “big gift” that God gives us each day (including Christmas) is the gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. As Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The God who has everything gave His very life so that we might live and know that He loves us. Even beyond that big gift, however, God continues to give to us without a budget. The beauty of nature, the spiritual encouragement of the Body of Christ, tasty food to nourish our bodies, etc. are all evidences of God’s gifts to us. He never tires or grows weary in giving to His children. He has all the resources to match the scope of His love for us.
Second, I cannot practice the principle of reciprocity with God. There is no “sacrifice” that I can make in this life that is of equal value to the gifts God has given to me. No “I’ll go serve you in Africa” claim could ever be the same as all that God has given to me. We cannot pay back to God what He has given us — for we simply have been given too much.
Given these truths, what are we to do? Well, when it comes to understanding how much God loves us, we should stand in awe of the gifts He continues to send our way. What great demonstrations of His budget-less love! Stop right now and thank Him for His indescribable gifts. Second, stop trying to pay God back for His gifts to us, for you can never give enough. This does not mean that we do not serve Him or worship Him or love Him or give back to Him. We absolutely do that. Just as I still bought presents for family and friends yesterday as reminders of my love for them, we still give to the Lord out of our love for Him . . . we just don’t do it to settle a score. This frees us up and purifies our motives in responding to His gifts!
As you shop every Christmas season, may the gifts you purchase remind you of the gifts we have received from Him that we can never repay.
Matthew 2:1-12, tell us of the wise men visiting Jesus and giving Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These three gifts were symbols of Jesus’s future as both king and martyr. These men responded to the announcement of Jesus’s birth by worshipping Him and reorganizing their time (they took a trip), talent (they were expert star gazers) and treasure (the three gifts delivered). We give back to God from the same three categories, not to pay Him back, but (like the wise men) to simply worship the King.
- What gift would you give to your friends/family members if you did not have a budget?
- The wise men worshipped Jesus through giving of their time, talent, and treasure. What are some ways you can give something back to God this Christmas season?
- Spend time thanking God for the tremendous gift of eternal life given to us in Jesus Christ.
- Out of gratitude and love, pray and lay your life before God, asking what He wants you to do as you respond to His grace in your life.