Christmas: Getting is Good

This time of year, we often hear the adage “it’s better to give than to receive.” Most of us would agree with that statement; I certainly do. Yet, I also have to admit that there’s a little child hiding deep down inside me that really likes that “receiving” part the best. I suspect that I’m not alone; when have you heard a post-Christmas discussion about what we gave for Christmas? The spiritual side that wants to have that discussion generally loses to the greedy little child within, whose focus is on the pretty boxes with my name on the tag.

It might surprise you to hear me say this, but that inner desire to get isn’t all bad. Giving is a good thing, but receiving is also a good thing. Anyone who will tell you they don’t like to receive gifts will lie about other things, too.

It’s an odd sort of inner conflict, this issue of giving and receiving. Sometimes, we feel guilty when we’re on the receiving end, particularly if we haven’t (or can’t) give in proportion to what we get. Some of the most giving people I have ever known have a problem with receiving. I’ve seen people who would rather starve than eat a free meal, rather freeze than wear a free coat, and rather hurt themselves overworking than accept a helping hand from a friend. It’s not that they don’t want the things offered, it’s that they don’t feel that they should have them, or they are too proud to accept them. Or both.

Many times we compensate for those feelings by giving in return. We keep a spare Christmas gift wrapped up and close at hand, just in case someone drops by with an unexpected Christmas gift for us. If we don’t give something back we feel guilty, so we selfishly give in return, not to bless the other party but to appease our own guilt. In a sense, the whole transaction changes from gift-giving to a kind of selfish bartering.

It’s a sad reality that many folks apply this same pattern to their relationship with God. When He knocks on our heart’s door, he wants us to answer the door, invite Him inside, and enjoy both the gift and the giver. We don’t always respond like that.

Some don’t answer the door at all, because they don’t have anything to give in return. Others spend their lives trying to find that perfect reciprocal gift and get the wrapping paper and bow just right—but it’s never good enough, so they never open the door.

Others answer the door, invite God in, accept His gift, but never unwrap or enjoy it. Instead, they try to earn the right to receive the gift they’ve already been given.

Consider what the word “gift” actually means. The short definition is “something given without compensation.” When giving or receiving a gift is based on receiving something in return, it’s no longer a gift. It may be a swap, barter, purchase, or bribe, but when there is compensation attached, it’s not a gift. True gifts are given in love, expecting and desiring nothing in return. Some of the best gifts are lovingly given simply to bless the recipient without even the potential for return compensation.

God doesn’t offer us the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ with any expectation of us returning an equal gift in kind. He knows we can’t. There is, however, one gift that you can give to God that would please Him more than anything else in the universe, as long as it’s given as a love-gift, not a bargaining chip or guilt-quencher. It’s a gift that you alone can give Him; nobody else can do it on your behalf. To God, it’s the most valuable and precious gift you could ever give Him, worth more than all of the diamonds, rubies, and gold in the universe. What could that gift possibly be?

Give Him your heart.

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