Christmas is the season of giving – of passing out presents, throwing parties, and expressing warm wishes for peace on earth and goodwill to all. But what happens when the celebration comes to an end? Where does the spirit of giving go when the boxes, bags, and ribbons have been consigned to the recycling bin and the tree is waiting to be ground into mulch?
If we’re followers of Jesus we believe that it keeps right on going. For us, the spirit of giving is nothing less than a revelation of the heart of God and a summation of the meaning of the Christian life. “God so loved the world that He gave,” says John 3:16. This is the spiritual or theological basis for a life of Christian giving.
But the story doesn’t end there. From a purely psychological perspective, the positive “vibes” associated with giving have a way of rebounding richly upon the giver. In fact, researchers have discovered that when we engage in acts of generosity, we benefit on a number of different levels. Giving encourages greater self-esteem and generates a feeling of deeper personal satisfaction. It lowers the risk of depression and actually promotes improved physical health. It even increases longevity by producing a sense of increased purpose in life.
From a certain angle this all beside the point, of course. In the final analysis, Christians don’t give because of what they expect to get out of it. On the contrary, they open their hearts and hands to others because they know something. In Christ, they have realized three inescapable truths:
We Belong To God
“Do you not know,” writes Paul to the Corinthian church, “that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit … and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). Everything we have and everything we are is a gift from the Creator of our souls. This means that we’re free – radically free! – to share our gifts with others!
We Have Received Much
God’s grace toward us is abundant – excessively so. We give in response to His generosity. The gifts we give to others are an expression of joy and gratitude for the bounty of our Father’s goodness.
The Gift Matters
It’s exciting to reflect that our generosity can make a tangible difference in the lives of needy people. This is why James tells us that it is not enough to give in a spiritual sense alone (James 2:16). When we minister to others, we must minister to the body as well as the soul.
If the thoughts we’ve shared here have captured your imagination, or if you’d simply like to explore them in greater depth, we suggest you get a copy of Randy Alcorn’s book The Treasure Principle and read it from cover to cover. This resource is available through Focus on the Family’s Online Store which can be accessed via the home page of the ministry’s website.