We all know the Biblical principle: “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) But this time of year, all the giving we’re expected to give can be just plain overwhelming. And empty. If that’s the case, there’s no blessing in it. Of course, it could be that our joy in giving is simply eclipsed by the happiness we find in receiving long-awaited items off our own wish lists. Does that make Scripture untrue? Of course not (Romans 3:4). As with all God-breathed Truth, we need to examine the context and compare Scripture with Scripture.
As much as the truism about giving vs. receiving is touted this time of year, the context was not a society like our own. Or a season in which people feel pressure to give neatly wrapped presents to a litany of social contacts. It wasn’t about obligatory gifts for “the man who has everything” (and will probably stuff your gift away in a drawer or donation pile anyway).
In Acts 20, Paul mentions his own commitment to helping the “weak” (or impoverished) and having others minister to his needs. The quote is actually attributed to Christ Himself, even though we don’t know the exact context of the statement in the Gospels. In the context of His life, however, we know that Christ “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). And, according to Hebrews 12:12, He delighted in paying that sin debt for us, knowing we were incapable of paying it on our own.
The fact that Christ and Paul were far more concerned with meeting spiritual needs than physical ones bears consideration, too. The gaping chasms of a hopeless heart are far more significant than a shopping list or preparations for the perfect holiday gathering. While we might enjoy some of the frivolous aspects of the holidays, in our heart-of-hearts, Christ-followers are Advent people, hope people. Our priorities, even — or especially — at this time of year should reflect that.
Whether we’re giving to meet spiritual or physical needs, it truly is a blessing to be used of God in that way! In fact, when we’re giving to meet the needs of others it’s as if we’re actually ministering to the needs of our Lord (Matthew 25:34-40). For the follower of Christ, nothing could cause more joy!
So does God promise that getting your Uncle Fred an engraved money clip to add to his already robust collection — or buying your niece yet another doll she’ll thanklessly throw in with the rest of them — will bring you happiness? Not necessarily. But what about giving toward a missions project at your church or a family without a Christmas dinner or the deep wounds of a hope-hungry soul? That kind of giving will pay dividends in blessings!
Continue reading with Part 2.
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