Recently, I was reflecting on a now-lost tradition of the Christmas season – the wondrous arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog. Kids today don’t know what they’re missing. I’m sure there were other items in the catalog, but I recall it virtually bursting with toys of all kinds, some even beyond imagining.
Being a boy, I quickly paged through the dolls, Easy-Bake ovens and frilly stuff. It didn’t take long to find what I was looking for: train sets, play pistols and rifles, miniature forts and cowboy towns, model cars, board games and building kits. The images conjured up more images – those of what might lie wrapped underneath the tree on Christmas morning.
As a spoiled youngster, I figured I knew what Christmas was all about: Receiving. That seems true even today for many folks, except for the disappearance of Sears and its “wish book” catalogs. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bombarded with advertisements about all the goodies we can purchase in stores and online. We’ll hear sanctimonious reminders that it’s all about giving. But in reality, the commercials will underscore that this season has become the pinnacle for materialism.
Granted, we did recently observe “Giving Tuesday” after Black Friday and the more-recently created Cyber Monday. Snail mail, TV promotions and email were jammed with pleas to give to charitable causes of all kinds, often with promises that whatever we gave would be doubled or even tripled by matching grants. So, the giving side of Christmas wasn’t forgotten.
But I can’t help feeling the giving focus of this time of year isn’t nearly as sharp as the receiving focus. And that’s a shame. Because after all, we’re told, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The first Christmas was unquestionably about giving – giving us a Savior who would not only teach and serve as a living example, but also become the atoning sacrifice for our sins so we might be redeemed and gain an eternal relationship with God. That’s why no one was more qualified than Jesus to say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
I like receiving Christmas gifts as much as the next person, but when we concentrate on the getting part and neglect the giving part, everyone suffers loss.
Jesus spoke about this when He explained about separating the sheep and the goats, those who were His genuine followers and those who were not. One of the indicators was selflessness, a willingness to give even when it did not seem personally beneficial. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).
It’s hard to imagine how giving to someone asking for help can be, in effect, giving to the Lord. But that’s what He said. These sentiments are repeated many other places in the Scriptures, including Proverbs 19:17, which declares, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.” If the Lord asked us for something, would we say no?
We live in a time when many people seem to expect handouts, whether it’s forgiveness of college loan debts they have accrued, subsidies to offset economic effects of a pandemic, or the growing number of homeless people populating our streets. Admittedly, I’ve grown jaded over the years after being stung personally by seemingly legitimate hardship stories that I later learned were contrived. It would be easier to be generous if we knew for certain the needs were genuine.
Unfortunately (for those of us who like to make excuses and justify them), the Bible doesn’t teach, “Give only when you can confirm needs are valid.” To the contrary, we’re given only one qualification for giving. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 we’re exhorted:
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
When we give, we’re not to do so grudgingly or feeling as if we’re compelled to do so. We’re also not to give in such a way that people will notice our acts of generosity. Jesus said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
God desires that we should give, and when we do so, that’s it’s done cheerfully. Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself, but when we consider how much and how lavishly God has given to us, in so many ways, how can we not give with cheerful hearts?
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is email@example.com.