Christmas is just a few days away. We are entering into shopping crunch time. During these next few days, many people will make the same promise they make every year, “Next year I am not going to wait until the last minute to do my shopping.” For many people, the next two days can be very stressful. Traffic will be bad, lines will be long, but the true source of anxiety will come from trying to figure out what to get for your loved ones.
Giving someone the perfect gift is one of the most rewarding experiences we can have. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). On the other hand, according to research, giving someone a bad gift can actually bring great harm to a relationship. When I got married someone advised me to never get my wife a vacuum cleaner for Christmas. That would definitely have caused some problems.
I want to share some gift giving tips that I have found to be helpful. At the same time I want to appreciate them from a spiritual level. God wants gifts from his people. The truth of these tips for giving gifts to one another are true for offering gifts to God.
Tip 1: Get Them What They Want
Don’t decide that they would want something instead of what they asked for. If we have been told what a person wants, get them what they want. Sometimes we may go out with the intention of getting the item on the list and then when we get to the store we see something shiny and become convinced that the person we are buying for will love that instead. People are individuals with their own taste. What they want is what they want.
This is no different in what we offer to God. God has specified what he wants in Christian worship. He wants singing (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16), prayers (1 Tim 2:8), giving (1 Cor 16:1-2), the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), and His Word read and taught (2 Tim 4:2). Sometimes we may forget that the Father is a person. As a person He has personal tastes. Worship is a gift to Him and since He has told us what he likes, that is what we should give Him.
Tip 2: Don’t Get Them What You Want
It may be the case that someone would like what you want, by all means get them that thing. But don’t enter a store thinking that your own tastes are the golden standard of what people like. It is presumptuous to think that just because something appeals to you, that it will appeal to everyone.
All too often this is the approach that people have towards what they give God. God has said that He likes singing. He likes the sound of the human voice. He never tells us to use mechanical instruments to praise him in the New Testament system. Yet you walk into almost every church building and there will be at least a piano playing along. Why is that? It is because people have forgotten tip number 2. Don’t give God what you want. Give Him what He wants.
Tip 3: Give Gifts That Keep On Giving.
That doesn’t mean that you sign them up for the jelly of the month club. It means don’t give them something that they will end up throwing away or regifting. A great example would be to buy a plant instead of flowers. Flowers are nice and pretty and will get an immediate reaction of happiness, but they are destined for the trash.
God wants a gift that keeps on giving. Christians are to be offering themselves to God continually (Romans 12:1-2). Christians are to be offering praises continually (Heb 13:15). God wants faithfulness in our service towards Him. In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel told Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Think of what you give to God. Is it dead flowers or a living growing plant?
Tip 4: Give Time
You can always earn more money, you can always get more stuff, but you cannot earn more time. When we give the gift of our time to each other, we are giving our most precious commodity. Gifts involving being together are excellent options if the person hasn’t told you exactly what they want.
God would love it if you gave him some of your time. He would love it if you would give time to thinking about Him. He would love for you to spend time in His Word. He would love for you to spend time in His work. In 2 Corinthians 8:4, Paul was talking about the great offering from the Macedonians. He said that it was great because “first they gave their own selves to the Lord”. They gave God their time.
In consideration of these points, it must be understood that God doesn’t accept just anything. But it goes even deeper than that. God doesn’t even accept the right things if they are offered through the wrong avenue.
Isaiah 59:1-2 teaches us that sin separates us from God and he does not accept anything from us because of it. That means I can give all of my wealth to God, but if I have sin in my life it is not accepted. The only way that God will accept any gift is through his Son Jesus (Heb 13:15). Jesus offered his body and blood so that whoever would be baptized could be able to offer their gifts to God (Acts 22:16).
I hope your last minute shopping is a breeze. But even more, I hope you will think about what you are giving to God.