II Corinthians 9:6-9 (NIV)
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
Most of us can remember Christmas gifts received when we were children. There were those gifts that were merely “ok”, of course; how many of us can recall forcing a smile as the torn away wrapping revealed more school clothes? But there were also those presents that we had hoped Santa would bring all year; no forced smile needed as those treasures were unwrapped.
Although holidays and birthdays have brought many memorable presents over the years none of the greatest blessings in my life have come in wrapping paper. The lifting of one’s spirits by unexpected but much needed kindness from friends, family, or even strangers doesn’t come with a ribbon attached. The insight and comfort that come from prayerful contemplation cannot be bought at a store. The deep feeling of connection to all of God’s people experienced through selflessly reaching out to others is not available to be gift wrapped. In short, the greatest gifts in my life have never been presents but always the blessings received by giving selflessly or being the recipient of those giving what matters most; themselves.
Corinthians 9:6-9 reminds me that it is not just during Christmas we are called to give. This passage calls us to set our hearts and minds to the practice of putting more into the world than what we expect to receive from it. The wisdom of these verses is known to most of us without having to open up the Bible; we’ve all experienced the blessings that result from focusing our hearts and minds outward instead of inward. Yet among the hurried, last-minute shopping, the filled schedules loaded with holiday gatherings, and adventures associated with creating then taking down the perfect home decoration, it is all too easy to forget that our giving shouldn’t end once Santa has delivered his gifts. Corinthians 9:6-9 reminds us that the most lasting gift we can give this Christmas season is one that we can give ourselves: the gift of an open and sharing heart throughout our lives.
Thought for the Day: What have you decided to give to others cheerfully today?