Well, the holiday gift-buying rush is on, isn’t it?
I made the massive mistake of going to the mall yesterday, which only confirmed my personal conviction that if a gift can’t be ordered online and shipped to your doorstep, it’s not worth having.
But most of us like exchanging gifts this time of year, don’t we? Hearing the squeals of delight from kids as they open gifts on Christmas morning is unforgettable.
And, though we adults aren’t as keen to show it, getting something we’ve wanted for a long time isn’t so bad either.
Paul’s philosophy on gifts is both interesting and challenging. It’s fascinating to think of his eyes lighting up when a friend from Philippi brought him a gift from the home church to his prison in Rome.
In this passage Paul comments on the gifts he’d received, but notice carefully why he was excited about what they’d sent.
Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen (Philippians 4:14-20).
It must’ve been a welcome sight when Paul saw his friend approaching with the gift. Unable to get out and earn a living for himself, he depended on the generosity of others.
But did you notice why he was most thankful?
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”
Even as he suffered in prison, Paul enjoyed the gifts he received mostly because he knew it blessed the ones who had sent them.
He was putting into practice some words from Jesus he had quoted earlier: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
That’s an important lesson for us, especially this time of year.
Getting the top item on your wish list is great, but it’s so much better to give to the needs of others.
Someone once said, “We’re never more like Christ than when we’re giving,” and I think that’s right.
We ought to practice that during this holiday season. Let’s think more about what we can give than what we will get.
Let’s teach (and show) our children not to be obsessed with how many packages they’ve got under the tree.
Find some underprivileged children whose needs you can meet.
Donate some time to a homeless shelter.
Invite someone without a family to eat a Christmas meal with yours.
Whatever we give to the needy, to paraphrase Paul’s words, is like putting it into the hands of God himself . . . it’s a “fragrant offering” that brings a smile to his face.
Enjoy a giving holiday season.