Before Christmas we were thinking a good deal about asking our Father God for those things that we need Him to provide for us and that we want Him to do for us and for others. Christmas increases our faith in asking as it reminds us that there is, at the heart of Christianity, a ‘Giving God’, a God who hears us and loves to give. Our new life in Christ all starts in the heart of our ‘Giving God’, who ‘so loved the world that He gave His only Son….’ John 3:16. And as we grow to be more and more like Him we find ourselves wanting to ‘give’ too.
At Christmas, a special time for giving, we spend time looking carefully for presents. We want to give to family and friends, to those we love, (or with whom we want to stay in good relationship!!). We might also give some extra to a charity at this time of year, to the homeless, or those dealing with those in crisis at Christmas. In fact it’s not that hard to give to those we love and to those we feel deserve our gifts. God’s giving is, however, at another level. We read that ‘because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions…’ Ephesians 2:4. That is to say, when we had done nothing, and could do nothing, to deserve His gift; when there was nothing in us to merit it, God planned and had great pleasure on giving to us, unilaterally and sacrificially, out of His huge compassion, mercy and generosity. Ephesians 1:5-8.
Unlike any other faith, or world religion, where the god or gods have to be appeased, and where blessing and favour have to be earned, at the heart of our faith is a Wonderful Being who loves and gives Himself for us, even before we know Him. Jesus Himself said, when encouraging His listeners to ‘love their enemies’, that we should aim to be like our Heavenly Father who, ‘causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ Matthew 5:45. Jesus said that, in order to be like our Father in heaven we need to have a heart to ‘give’ to those outside our close circle, and to those to whom we would not naturally be drawn. He asked the question ‘if you only love those who love you what reward will you get?’ ‘What are you doing more than others? Do not the pagans do that? Be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Matthew 5:46,47.
I think it is significant that, in the passage about the sheep and the goats, Jesus said ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory to judge’, the ones who are welcomed in to take their inheritance aren’t selected by the way they preached, evangelised or prophesied; they aren’t selected by their faith, and the miracles and healings that they have done, they are selected and commended because they ‘gave’ to those who could not return the favour. ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink’. You gave me hospitality, you gave me clothes, you gave me dignity, you gave some comfort, you gave some help in time of need (in prison or trouble). Matthew 25:29-35. He also encourages us to ‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.’ saying ‘Freely have you received freely give.’ Matthew 10:8. Whether we are giving kindnesses or more supernatural gifts, it is always to be with a heart of ‘freely giving’ not performing or earning anyone’s approval, and we also know that He notices and loves even the smallest act of ‘giving’, like the cup of water, Mark 9:41.
So if we are going to be like our Heavenly Father we need, from our hearts, to ‘Live to Give’, not just at Christmas. We can give way on the motorway, give way at the checkout, give a hand to someone who is struggling, give a good tip, give a kind word, or a smile; give a word of encouragement, give someone our time and skills, etc. etc. And, if we are to be like our Father, we need to give, not just to the deserving, but to bless those we will never see again, those who don’t deserve anything, and those who have nothing and won’t be able to give back.
As I thank the Lord for all He has given me, I will realise that I can be like the child who has been given a very large bag of sweets, and finds it so much easier to share than when he just has two or three sweets in his pocket. And as I thank Him for every opportunity to give and give again, then my eyes will be opened to see those opportunities not as duty, or a ‘have to give’, but as a ‘Wow! Another opportunity where I get to give’. Remembering also that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. Acts 20:35
Thankfulness for all my blessings can, I believe, create a culture of giving in my heart and draw me into a giving lifestyle. I will be released to live generously and give sacrificially. So in this New Year let our heart of gratitude for all that the Father has given us, enable us to become more and more like our Him in all that we do.