This month is often Americans' favorite of the whole year, because it means we are finally at Christmas. That means hot cocoa, time with family, Christmas carols and holiday songs on the radio every day, Santa Claus, and, of course, presents. We love getting presents, don't we? Who doesn't enjoy unwrapping the present (whether it's in a beautiful box with a bow or wrapped in the funny pages from that weeks' newspaper - my big brother's favorite wrapping material)? There's all the excitement of finding out what the people who love you got you, how they are demonstrating their love for you.
For many of us, we measure how much we are loved by how much we get. But in God's economy, what matters is not what we get, but what we give. Giving is at the heart of our faith. There are so many places in scripture that we could see this, but let's look at just a few points tonight.
1. We give because we serve a God who gave up everything to save us.
Philippians 2:5-8 "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!"
Romans 8:32 - He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Jesus, our LORD, gave up His rights as God, all the privileges of being the One True God, the Alpha and Omega, the Creator and Lord of all things. He gave that up to inhabit a human form, to live a human life with us on earth. And then he willingly gave up that life - for you. He died the death we deserve so that we might live through his sacrifice. The Father gave up His own Son, sacrificing his only son for your sake. If He was willing to do that, how could we doubt that He will give us all that we need?
2. We should give because our God is a gift-giving God.
Romans 3:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.
Romans 5:17 - For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
*Our salvation is the free gift from God, dependent not on anything that we have done, but wholly dependent on the goodness and mercy of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:7 - But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
Romans 12:6 - We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.
*Beyond the gift of eternal life and salvation, God also gives us each spiritual gifts that allow us to work together as the body of Christ.
James 1:5 - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
Beyond salvation and spiritual gifts, the God we serve gives wisdom generously to all who ask. He also gives grace and mercy and forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness.)
3. We give because God loves when we give to others.
2 Corinthians 9:7 - Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
4. We give because we recognize that all gifts ultimately come from God, not from us.
James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
*When our motivations are right, we give to others because we ultimately recognize that all that we have is from God. Whether we have much or we have little, all we have is His.
Whether we give our money, our time, our conversations, our things, our prayers - when we give to others out of the overflow of God's blessings to us, we have the opportunity to glorify Him. We have the chance to say, "This isn't about me; this is about how good God has been to us, that we can share it with you. He is the one who deserves the thanks."
I think that when we stop worrying about what we're going to get and start focusing on how we are going to give, we please Christ.
This December, there are wonderful opportunities for you to give to others and glorify our God in Heaven. For the next 19 days, Compassion International is sponsoring an initiative entitled, "It's All about Giving." By simply clicking here - Compassion Christmas Gift Catalog, you have the ability to radically transform the life of a child, a family, or a community. I wrote about this in my last post, but to reiterate, you could:
- provide garden seeds for a family in Africa for $10
- protect a child from malaria for $18
- build a water reservoir for a family for $23
- provide safe and sanitary bathrooms for $30
- provide shelter for a family and a highly vulnerable child for one month for $42
- feed a baby and its mother for 3 months for $48
- provide for a baby's medical care for a year for $55
- provide clean water for a family for life for $79
Will you help? Will you give out of the blessings you have been given? Again, the campaign is #ItsAboutGiving (in case you look for it on other social media) and the link to the Christmas catalog is http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm?referer=128060
We have been given so much. Perhaps today is the day to give in return.