Feeling the pressure to pick out the perfect gift?
After starting a new job in a new city this fall, I’ve learned a few things about myself. In the past few weeks, for example, I learned that I dislike the words “white elephant gift exchange.”
In what will forever be known as “the white elephant shopping debacle of 2014,” and watching others struggle under similar pressures, I realized that there are a few things that get lost in the Christmas shuffle when it comes to giving.
Three Things We Forget About Gift Giving
1. It is an expression of love and generosity.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God didn’t give us the best gift ever because it was popular or flashy, or because He wanted us to fit in. God didn’t even give His Son because it was necessary. God gave us Jesus because He loves us. That is a level of generosity Christians are called to imitate. Whatever you decide to give to the people on your list — because it just fits them or they need it — check your motivations. Are you giving because you’re expected to, or because you’re expressing your love for that person through a certain level of generosity?
2. It is a form of intercession.
In Romans 8:34, Paul reminds us that Jesus always intercedes for us, and we are called to intercede for others in prayer (1 Timothy 2:1). Similarly, God commanded in Deuteronomy 15:11 “to be open-handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” I don’t know that I can call the people on my list poor, but I do know that they need my intercession, both in prayer and generosity, just as I need theirs. Of the various definitions of the word “give” in the dictionary, many of them use “deliver” or “delivery,” which implies that the giver is a type of middle-man or messenger. As Christians, we can see giving as a type of intercession in which we give what God has called us to give out of love to those who need (or just want).
3. It shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress.
I constantly forget that Jesus told me, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). At the Christmas season, there’s so much pressure to find the best, most perfect gift for each person on your list that we all forget that giving God like God gives — as an outpouring of love and generosity from Him — shouldn’t be stressful. Giving shouldn’t put us in debt. It shouldn’t make us compromise our obedience to Him, and it certainly shouldn’t put us in a position to forget that we love the people we’re giving to in the first place.
This Christmas, what if we were willing to forego the expectations and pressure to give extravagantly, and instead focused on giving in love and generosity? Whether that means giving someone something expensive or simply writing them a letter depends on what God has given you and called you to give. Just don’t forget that giving gifts is a love language, and one of the ways that God communicates His love for us.