Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gift-giving exposed...

(In a post this past summer, I wrote a little about the Five Love Languages, as written about by Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.  I explained how I found myself wondering if they apply to our relationship with God. This is the sixth of what turned out to be nine posts as I explored this topic.)
Love Language: Gifts
It seems appropriate that I am getting to this love language just as the holiday gift-giving season launches itself. You see, even though gift-giving is an ancient method of expressing esteem and establishing a relationship, the commercialism of today's society has unfortunately warped and twisted the meaning of this love language until its meaning has been almost completely lost. I'm afraid that those who do not speak this love language seriously underestimate its potential value. Consequently, those who do speak this language are unintentionally hurt and left feeling guilty because they care about gifts more than "Christian society" says they should value mere things.

Watching my son has given me a new appreciation of this love language. You see, he doesn't know that many people today feel obligated to buy gifts for different occasions. He still has the childlike innocence that enables me to see the value of gift-giving the way God intended it.

My son receives each gift as though it was given with the same love that he gives gifts with. Most gifts he receives are "just what he always wanted!" ...even if he never thought of wanting that particular thing. I used to think that it was just something he said, but as I watched him treasure each gift, I began to see that he was sincere in that statement.

You see, what he always wants is an expression of love. And for him, a gift is a way to hold onto someone's love for him. It is their love made tangible. Christmas and his birthday are when people allow their love to change from mere words to something that he can see and touch and treasure.

When he gives a gift, it is an expression of his love, and the more he loves you, the more special he wants that gift to be. And for him, gift giving is a privilege. He would be hurt beyond measure if he overheard you say that the gift he gave you was meaningless, purchased only because the season demanded it. Perhaps that's why you gave your gifts, but that's not why he gives his!

So my plea, on behalf of my son and others like him, is this: If gifts mean nothing to you, please do not make the mistake of thinking that they should mean just as little to others. Perhaps they mean a lot to one of those you love most in the world. And God created them that way, for He is a gift-giving God!

What about God's gifts? Are they given out of obligation? Has society demanded that God shower us with gifts? Of course not! Yet God has given us gifts that eclipse anything we could ever dream of giving.

He is a gift-receiving God as well, for He said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to drink. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was naked and you gave me clothing." Then He said something amazing. When we give gifts to others, we are simultaneously giving those gifts to Him.

Think of that! That gift you saved so carefully for or worked so hard to make for your loved one... you gave that gift to God as well. What about that gift you snatched up because it was the cheapest thing available? That one was for God, too. Ouch.

Am I saying that we have to heed the call of advertisers and spend thousands on Christmas? Absolutely not! It is not the monetary cost that expresses love, but the sacrifice of thought. That's why a gift of roadside flowers picked out of love means so much more than a thousand-dollar TV set given out of obligation. Heed the call of your gift-giving God and put thought and love into every gift you give, for you never know when God might use that gift to minister His love to someone who desperately needs it.

But back to God's gifts.

God's gifts to us come in two categories: the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual gifts were all given through the physical gift of Jesus. He was indeed the most magnificent gift God could have ever given us. Think of it! The God who created the universe, gave Himself! How can we do any less than gift Him ourselves in return?

But what spiritual gifts did Jesus bring down with Himself?

I mentioned a number of the spiritual gifts in my last post, for they are what God has filled that table spread in the wilderness with, only a few of which are listed in Psalm 23. I'd love to go into detail about just how powerful and great these things are, but it would take the whole Bible to show the length of breadth of them! So I'll settle for a list with references. He has given us:

Peace (2 Thess. 3:16, Rom. 15:13, Phil. 4:7, Rom. 14:17, Eph. 2:14-15, Jude 1:2, 1 Pet. 1:2, 2 Pet. 1:2, 2 John 1:3)

Mercy (Jude 1:2, 2 John 1:3, Ex. 33:19, 2 Sam. 24:14, Matt. 18:33, Mark 5:19, Luke 1:78, and all of Jesus' miracles)

Grace (1 Pet. 1:2, 2 Pet. 1:2, 2 John 1:3, Ps. 84:11, Prov. 3:34, Zech. 12:10, John 1:16-17, Acts 15:11, Acts 20:24, Rom. 5:15-20, 2 Cor. 9:8, Eph. 3:8, 2 Tim. 1:9)

Joy (Rom. 15:13, 1 John 1:4, 2 Cor. 8:2, Ps. 16:11, Ps. 45:7, Is. 61:7, Jer. 31:13, Matt. 25:21, John 15:11, John 17:13, Rom. 14:17)

Truth (John 1:17, Ps. 25:10, Ps. 138:2, John 8:32, John 15:26, 2 Cor. 11:10, Gal. 2:5)

Freedom from sin and everything that comes with it (John 8:32, Rom. 8:21, Gal. 5:1, John 8:36, Acts 13:39, Rom. 6:7, Rom. 6:22, Rom. 7:24-25, Rom. 8:2, Rom. 8:21)

Rest and Security (Ex. 34:14, Ps. 91, Is. 30:15, Is. 32:18, Is. 63:14, Jer. 6:16, Jer. 50:34, Ez. 34:15, Matt. 11:28, Heb. 4:1-4)

Wisdom (Job 38:36, Ps. 51:6, all of Proverbs, Acts 6:10, Eph. 1:17, James 1:5)

Love (this whole series)

And then there's every gift of revelation He gives us, which is the only way we can fully comprehend the fullness of every one of these gifts. And these are only small sampling of the spiritual gifts He gives us.

What about the physical gifts He gives us--gifts that I, at least, often take for granted.

Our children are a gift from God. (Ps. 127:3) The more joy they bring me, the more I realize just how amazing this gift is.

Our spouses. Those who have been through divorce or who are in a difficult place in their marriage right now might not feel that this is much of a gift...but it is sin that messes up marriages. Marriage the way God intended it is a marvelous and mysterious gift, for it is a symbol and a picture of His relationship with His body. (Eph. 5:31-33)

Music. This is a big one for me, for I cannot imagine my life without music. Music is actually very complicated--mathematical correlations between sounds determine what sounds good and what does not. And God could have created this world without the ears to hear it, or the voices to sing along with it. He could have kept the knowledge of musical instruments from mankind.

Sunshine, mountains, oceans... Seriously. What if God had created us to live on a planet like Mars, barren and dry and monotonous?

Color. He could have made the earth in black and white.

Laughter. Think of the laughter of a child, or that hour you've spent with your best friend. What if God had never given you that?

The ability to savor a delicious meal. I know lots of people for whom this is one of life's great joys.

Life itself. As I learned when my mother died, every day is a gift from Him.

I know there is so much more, but this post has gotten long enough. But I hope that this list affects you as it does me...filling my heart with thanksgiving and my mouth with praise. For He is so good to us!

3 comments:

  • Annie says:
    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Good stuff, Katie. I find God giving practical and unnecessary gifts to me too. Like the new computer I barely even asked Him for, but secretly wished it - sort of landed on our doorstep.

    I don't know why, but knowing these things about people moves me so much more. (Your son, for example.) When I give gifts, I want them to be meaningful. I don't want them to be just an 'object.' Thus, I put a lot of time, concentration, and analysis into thinking about what someone might like; what would communicate how special they are, and how much I value them. When I don't know those things about someone ... it makes it almost impossible for me to give them gifts. Which in turn makes me sad. That is the reason, more than any other, why I have missed SO many gifts for you and your kids. I don't want to buy them (you) something impersonal, and I feel like I just don't know them well enough (because of the distance) to know what would light them up. I wish we could have lived closer to each other these past 12 years, but ... I know we each followed what God had for us. It does make me really miss knowing your kids like I could have though. So ... I apologize for having missed this expression of love so often to you all. It wasn't for lack of wanting or wishing. And I hope somehow I will find a way to get better at this in the future.

    Incidentally, I am getting better at this generally in my own life. Giving is fun. I love lighting someone's face up. I just randomly knitted a hat for a girl I work with, and was totally unprepared for the response. It was like Christmas morning times four. I had no idea if she'd like it or think it was weird that I did that for her ... but she nearly came out of her skin. I had no idea gift giving was that strong with her. It put a huge smile in my heart, though, just to see her beaming. Gift giving can get addictive, I think. :)

  • Katie says:
    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Thanks for mentioning what I (inexplicably) forgot! Yes, He does give us practical and unnecessary gifts as well...and I'm finding that, the more I trust Him and follow His leading in my own giving, the more He gives back to me. (I was given a new computer, too. Actually two, since massively-upgrading the desktop makes it, to all intents and purposes, new. And if that's not unnecessary, I don't know what is!)

  • Crown of Beauty says:
    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Thank you for this post. I really like people whose love language is gift giving, because it is my second love language I think, and I love giving gifts, and receiving them as well!

    And so, for all the years of my life I realize that God has been giving me gifts, directly, but also indirectly. And the gifts He has given me through other people are not small. God has given me cash gifts given by other people in the vicinity of 7 figures at the time my family really needed it. One person at CHristmas gave me and my husband a brand new car three years ago... not to mention trips abroad that I never spent a single cent for, also an indirect gift from God.

    Yes, I appreciate that God is a gift giving God.

    Thank you so much for this post.

    Love
    Lidj

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