At Christmas time we start thinking about giving gifts – even though we know Christmas isn’t all about the presents. It isn’t a bad thing to give gifts to those we love.
Christmas though is just one day – or maybe just a season of a few weeks. I find it challenging to think at this time about how I am carrying these attitudes that come so easily at Christmas time, to the rest of the year. Am I keen to be joyous, am I thankful for the gift Christ was/is, am I willing to be a person who gives.
There are more ways to give than just to give gifts that are wrapped in pretty paper, for example:
- We can give of our talents – can you help in particular areas because of your knowledge or abilities? Whether that is a natural gift or a learnt skill – each one of us has something that can help others. In a world that charges for every service, giving freely is truly a gift.
- We can give care and help when there are practical needs – as the natural extended family disperses and the sense of neighbourhood breaks down, there are practical needs all around us that we could help out with – we just have to open our eyes (and heart) and see them.
- We can give hospitality – hospitality is offering food, shelter, and friendship. Though hospitality is more than inviting people into your home – that is a good place to start.
- We can give friendship – a smile, a greeting, an invitation, a listening ear.
- We can give our possessions or money
When we give it is going to cost us time. Whether we sit with someone, or cook them a meal, whether we write an email or pray for them, whether we babysit or do a chore for them it will take our time. Our culture says time is a precious commodity, so maybe giving time is one of the most precious gifts we can give. It is also one of the biggest blocks to giving and often why people give money – and though money is sometimes what is needed, we need to check that we aren’t taking the quick and to be honest, impersonal way of giving.
When it comes to preparing for Christmas, one of the things we do is write out our gift list – who are we going to give what gift to. We think about the people in our life and what will make them feel loved. If we are to be giving people all year round, it needs to be a lifestyle, a part of us, a habit. Not all habits are natural though and some people may have to teach themselves to give and intentionally work on it. I’m not sure about the 21 days to create a habit (cause sometimes it does take longer!) but if giving is our goal, we will need to be constantly looking for and being aware of opportunities to give of ourselves.
Jesus told the story which we know of as ‘the good Samaritan’ and he asked his audience – who is your neighbour? Who are the people we are to love, to care for, to give to?
- Our spouse – our husband or wife – we can become so used to doing things for the other person that it becomes drudgery instead of giving out of love. Attitude check.
- Our children – we can become so focused on teaching and training that we forget to see them as people with needs, we ignore the opportunities to give.
- Our extended family – distance, either physical or emotional, is often a safety net for us, but we can put ourselves out there, and maybe breach those distances, by starting to give.
- Our church family – oh the division that is the church – let’s be people who can give regardless
- Our physical neighbours – I live on a farm, so am not reminded that I have physical neighbours on a daily basis, but still they are there. Neighbours can be a confronting relationship, and most homes have fences that block out our neighbours – but they are still there.
- The people we meet as we do life – down the street and in the shops, other parents who are waiting for their kids as you wait for yours, the people that are in the clubs we belong to, the tradesmen who come to the house, the services on the phone, the vet, the nurse, the bank teller. As we look behind their job face we will see a person – a person with woes and cares or a person with something to celebrate – a person who needs.
We often see giving and meeting people’s needs only when a person appears depleted. The person that Samaritan met was beat up and hurting – we use this analogy to inspire us to meet the needs of the beat up and hurting (physically and emotionally) and there are certainly people like that in our world, not out there in the big world, but in our town, maybe even in our family. But we all have needs – even when life is going well. We all have a need to know that we are noticed, loved and belong. We don’t have to wait till people hit rock bottom before we give to their needs.
I’m reluctant to write about a caution here – because we are so used to hearing about putting boundaries around ourselves so we don’t get taken advantage of, that people don’t use our generous nature, that we don’t continually find ourselves in unfair situations, and I do have one person in our family who is a giver and a people pleaser and yes, they do need to know when to look after themselves. But when anyone starts to have this as their primary mindset they will become hard of heart, giving will be conditional, and only when it suits. So the caution is there, but please don’t let that be your excuse against giving to others freely, out of love, and because Jesus first loved you. I am reminded that the Samaritan didn’t pull his “boundaries” card – he didn’t think of his rights, of his offense, of his time and money, or of his schedule. He took care of the need that came across his path.
There are three particular heart responses that we need to work on if we are to give to others:
- Availability – making myself free to help others. When we are available we have to let go of to-do lists, or expectations or even our routines. Needs never pop up on schedule! But it is also a heart attitude of being ready to give up those things.
- Generosity – the opposite of generosity is stinginess; when we are generous we meet the need, and some, when we are stingy we just meet the need, no more. The need may actually be bigger than our resources, but generosity is about our heart to be bountiful, our willingness to give.
- Compassion – a heart to see the needs, the hurts of others and the willingness to do something about it. As ambassadors of Christ, we need to see that these people are the people that Christ died for – he loves them. We too need to love them.
Love means to give without expecting anything in return – this needs to be the basis for our giving. Regardless of people’s response, regardless of anyone giving to me, regardless of the cost – I need to show love. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35
Over to you:
Have you found ways to maintain balance in your busy life?
Give to People Intentionally: Giving to others is an opportunity to be intentional in building your relationship.
A simple command – but so hard to do: Love One Another: To follow Jesus’command to love one another I need to see that it is God’s love in me that enables this to happen.
Speaking all 5 Love Languages: In order to show love to all around us we need to learn to speak all 5 love languages.
Christmas is an Opportunity to Give: Christmas time is an opportunity to teach our children to give to others.