I know they say it is better to give then to receive, but sometimes I find that hard to believe. I mean I do really like giving gifts, (ask my wife who got some flowers today), but I really, really like getting gifts. I still love it when I get any kind of gift, even a free toy in my cereal. Christmas and birthday’s are always some of my favorite times of the year because I know gifts will be coming my way.
Now some of you may think I am just ridiculously selfish, (which I am, as we all truly are) while others may completely identify with my statements. Regardless, I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t like a gift. Yes maybe they like a word of encouragement or some quality time together more, but I believe most if not all people still like it when they get a really good gift.
The hope is that the gift is more of a symbol that represents the relationship between me and the giver. Thus, my gratitude, focus and love should go to the giver of my great gift. However, oftentimes I am so enamored with the gift I neglect the giver. I get so caught up in what a great gift it is I forget the whole purpose of the gift in the first place: for the giver to show love and appreciation to me.
And sadly, many of us do this with our Greatest Gift Giver, Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us the greatest gifts ever imagined. Creation, salvation, eternal life and every other good thing that exists are all amazing gifts from God. And while these gifts are truly amazing and great, they are still gifts. They should not be an end of our love and appreciation but rather a means to greater love and appreciation for God.
So today I want to discuss two ways we can shift our love, appreciation and focus from the great gifts Jesus gives to the Great Gift Giver Himself.
The first thing that has helped me is to better understand the gift and it’s purpose. Why does God save? Why does God create and give us such amazing things? At many places throughout the Bible, (Isaiah 48:9 and Ezekiel 20:9 to name a couple), God acts or chooses not to act “for His Name’s sake.” Psalm 106:8 says “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” The verse is in reference to not destroying, but rather saving the Jews after they were rebellious.
Just like He has forgiven us when we were rebellious. God didn’t save us because He really thought we were cool or He needed us on His team or because we deserved to be saved. He saved us for His name’s sake. He gave us the amazing gift of salvation, (and all other gifts He has given), to bring glory, honor and praise to His name. Now I know some of you think this is selfish and if I did it it would be. But for God to do things ultimately for God’s name isn’t selfish, it’s Godly. Because if God gave us gifts for any other purpose than the glory of His name then that thing would be God. If God gave gifts because He had to love, then love would be God. If God did it because it was his duty to save, then duty would be God.
So as you marvel at the amazing gifts of God’s creation, salvation and eternal life, (because these gifts should be marveled at: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8), remember that the purpose of these gifts is His name because He who gives the gifts is much greater than the gifts themselves.
Secondly, I must learn to choose and desire the giver over the gift. For example, would you still want your husband or wife if they never gave you a gift? Would you still want your parents if they showed you deep love yet never gave you a gift? Praise God they do give gifts and praise God that He does as well.
But I always like to ask this question: Would you still love, follow and serve God even if it didn’t mean eternal life? Would you love and follow God just because He is God? Because He is so lovely and perfect that loving Him is a natural result? That can be a tough question to answer and praise God that He does give good gifts that reflect His perfect personality.
The point I wish to make though is what do you really love, God or His Gifts? This is why we study our Bible and pray frequently. These things teach us and help us understand the Great Gift Giver so that we love and desire Him more. This way, the gifts become a means to greater love and joy in Him rather than an end to our love in themselves.
So for example, I continue to learn to grow and appreciate my wife more. As I do so, and she blesses me with any kind of gift, the gift in turn causes me to desire, love and appreciate her more. This is where the prosperity Gospel got off track. They believe that loving God is a greater means to the end of greater gifts rather than the gifts being a greater means to the end of loving God more.
This is an important distinction because any good gift can become an idol. God has given us the amazing gifts of comfort, convenience and pleasure. However, when we start to see the gifts as an end in themselves rather than a means to praise, honor and glorify God, then we have broken Exodus 20:3-5 where we are told to “have no God’s before God.” How sad when we focus so much on the gifts of God we neglect the Giver!
So my hope, prayer and challenge this week to us all is to look at each and every amazing gift God has given you, (you can even Count Your Blessings and name them one-be-one if you want), and understand why God has given them to you. Look at each deeply and understand He provided you with these things for His Name. Also, may we all learn to use God’s gifts as a means to better worship, glorify and praise Him rather than using the gifts as an end in themselves. May we love our Great Gift Giver not just the gifts He has given. May His gifts bring us to love and worship Him more.