Today is a day of giving—giving to others to support them and build up our communities. That’s what “giving Tuesday” is about. We seek to build a more generous and caring world. Unfortunately, this is in direct conflict with human nature, which seeks to gain material things for the self and neglects the needs of others. Of course, it is the Spirit of God within us that helps us overcome our selfish nature and give to others. You know how when you’re a kid, and you’re really excited about getting things on Christmas morning, but when you get older, somehow that aspect isn’t as important anymore? As we mature, we naturally (hopefully) come to understand and embrace the concept of giving to others rather than getting. Case in point: yours truly.
8-year-old me was obsessed with presents and sneaking a peek before Christmas at the toys my parents bought me that they had hid in the corner of their bedroom closet.
“For shame, Caitlin, had you no self-control?” you might wonder.
And, no, I did not. I was eight, and I remember specifically asking for a basketball for Christmas so I could dribble it on our back patio (why I’ll never know since I’ve never been drawn to sports or even remotely coordinated in that area). 8-year-old me was anxious—nay, ecstatic at the thought of opening up my gift, wondering whether my parents had agreed to meet my request. I was, admittedly, a greedy little child. As I pulled back the paper hiding my special gift in the corner of my parent’s closet, I gazed with glazed over eyes at the bright orange orb with black stripes. I imagine my glee resembled that of the European conquerors when they came to Central America in the 1500s in search of gold.
“Behold! This brass, shiny object is more beautiful than chainmail sparkling in the moonlight! I must have it!”
But alas! My pleasure at the sight of the brand-new basketball in my parents’ closet was short-lived when my sister (the fiend!) stomped into sight and called my name, bringing attention to my clandestine meeting with my gift to our mother’s attention. Though I still unwrapped the basketball on Christmas morning, I never again sneaked a peek at my Christmas gifts. Once, I cared only about what I would get for Christmas. Naturally, the older I became, the more invested in others I became.
You see, my sister and I have a stocking stuffer tradition. While some families have always stuffed stockings and opened them on Christmas morning, this has never been a tradition in my household until my sister and I decided to try it two years ago. It has become a challenge each year to come up with small gifts (some practical, some cutesy) to fill up each stocking, but the real delight isn’t in finding out what each of us received in our stocking—it’s in seeing each other’s delight at what we put in each other’s stocking. In short, it’s about giving, of which I learned the joy with experience as I got older and began to invest in others.
Giving requires us to think about others more than ourselves. What does so-and-so want? What do they need? What would make them happy? And then we give to them whatever fits into those categories, be it quality time or a special gift of sentimental value. Giving trains our naturally selfish minds to think less about ourselves. The more we give, the easier it becomes. The more we give, the more we reflect Christ.
After all, He gave His life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. But He didn’t die on a cross and rise again so that we could only invest in ourselves and in our life on earth. Christmas is a season of giving to others, yes, but I believe it is also a season to remember why we give and what we must give back to Him.
There’s a popular Christian song that says, “I give myself away.” Our lives are not our own. We give ourselves up to Him—our time, talents, and treasures—so that He can use us to glorify Him and help people come to know Him. For me, this concept solidified in my mind when I learned I must give up my dreams and desires to Him. We want what we want, right? Sometimes, we often think what God wants for us is something we won’t like, and so we stubbornly hold onto our wants. But the Kingdom of God is not full of people who only focus on their own desires and plans, and what God wants for us will give us more joy and fulfillment than we could ever imagine. When we learn to put our focus on what He wants and what others want and need, we become effective workers in the Kingdom of God.
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” ~2 Corinthians 9:7