This devotional is part of the 2020 Christmas Devotional Book, “The Gift.” Access the entire devotional and download your free copy by clicking here.
Reciprocity? (Matthew 2:1-12)
One day, Kimberly and I went Christmas shopping. Faced with a long list of “to dos” that needed to get done, I took a day of vacation and we headed out in the All Wheel Drive sleigh trying to fill it with presents to deliver on Christmas morning.
As we worked our way around the malls looking to make purchases, we were guided by a list of names of people we were buying for. On this list were friends and family, and because they are so dear to us, the opportunity to bless them with a gift is always a real privilege. The problem, however, was what kind of a gift do you bless them with? Moments like this are a great object lesson for understanding the need for a budget. If I were to let my love for the people on my list dictate what I bought them, I would never be able to pay off the balance of the bills! I simply have more love in my heart for the people on that Christmas list than I have money in my bank account — or even than I WILL have in my bank account if I did not spend a cent between now and when Jesus returns. Therefore, I could not determine what to give them based on how much I love them, because I do not have a matching resource to offer to the scope of my love.
A second way I could determine what to give them would be to play the principle of reciprocity. By this, I mean that I would try to give a gift back to someone of equal value to what they have given me. 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 as we shopped, 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.
As I was shopping, however, a second thing stood out to me. 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 budgetless 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 that day 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 remember the gifts you purchased this December, may they remind you of the gifts we have received from Him that we can never repay. Like the Magi, let us give back to Him as we are able, as an act of love to the King of Kings.
Suggested song for today: “O Holy Night”
In this Christmas devotional, there is a song referenced for each day. All these songs, are included in a playlist found on Apple Music and Spotify at the following links: