A big part of the stress of Christmas is buying gifts. How much should you spend? What do they want? Will I find parking at the mall? Will it be sold out? Will they love it? What if they return it? All these questions create stress in purchasing gifts. Multiply that by how many people are on your list and there in lies the level of your stress. Some people try to avoid all that stress by purchasing everything online. There’s also a stress with that. Will it look like the picture? Will it get here in time? How do you return it if you have to? There are so many things to worry about.
There’s a story in Luke 21 about a widow giving a gift. She might have been stressed too. As she stood in the temple and waited to bring her gift to God, several others made a show about their gifts. Verse one says that Jesus watched as the rich people dropped their gifts in the collection box. I’m sure she was watching too. As others dropped off their bags of money, she stood there with two little coins. She could have been wondering, “Is this enough? It’s nothing compared to the gifts they’re bringing in.” When the time seemed right, she went and gave her small gift to God.
Jesus was still watching when she did. He turned to the others around him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.” Her tiny gift meant more to God than the extravagant gifts that others brought. Why? Because it was from her heart. She knew that it’s not the size of the gift or the amount of the gift that matters. She knew that even though she didn’t have much, what she had belonged to God. She gave Him what He had given her. Everything. She wasn’t content to give a fraction of what she had because God hadn’t given her a fraction of what He had. She gave everything she had.
When it comes to giving gifts, it’s not the price tag that matters. When it comes to giving to God, it’s not the amount that matters. What matters to God and others is if it comes from the heart. Anyone can give from their surplus. Anyone can give a gift in order to gain the praise of people. It takes a special person to give a gift that matters. It takes a person who isn’t intimidated by the show that others make of their giving to step out and give a gift that matters. Jesus is watching and sees it all. He sees beyond the external side of giving gifts and looks into the heart. He doesn’t measure gifts by the amount, He measures them by the attitude.
This Christmas season, don’t stress over the things that really don’t matter. You should live your life to please an audience of one. Giving gifts is meant to be a joyous occasion. Since the very beginning, God has been a giver. If you look at how God gives and what He looks for in givers, it’s not about excess. He’s never been impressed by that. He is always impressed with those who give from their hearts and who give their all. Don’t be ashamed that your gifts may not be as extravagant as what other people give. Give anyway. The smallest gift is often the biggest gift to God.
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Each year, I take a one week sabbatical from writing to refresh and to spend time with my family. Each devotion this week will be a past favorite. Enjoy and I’ll see you next week.
Have you ever noticed that some of the richest people around you also happen to be some of the most giving people? They may also be people who try their hand at multiple business ventures. I believe it goes back to a couple of scriptural principles on generosity. If you give, it will be given to you. The other is that you reap what you sow. Both of these principles work whether the giver is a Christian or not. Just like you don’t have to believe in gravity to fall down, you don’t have to believe the Bible for these to work.
My overarching prayer for my family this year is that we would scatter more seeds, but on fertile ground. If a farmer plants more seeds, they’re going to get a larger crop, especially if those seeds were planted in fertile soil. It only stands to reason that the more seeds of blessing that each of us scatter, gives God more ways to grow those seeds and give us more fruit. Life is about planting and replanting. Your first crop isn’t going to give you enough for the rest of your life.
Proverbs 11:24 says, “There is the one who [generously] scatters [abroad], and yet increases all the more; And there is the one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want and poverty” (AMP). Being generous today results in returned generosity in the future. Be careful not to compare your generosity or return with someone else’s. Give what and where God tells you to give. Our house rule when it comes to giving is simple: how much do you want God to bless you? Giving and being generous come in many forms. If you’re looking for God to trust you with more, be generous with what you have today.
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One of my prayers this year has been, “Lord, help us to plant seeds in fertile soil so you can maximize the harvest.” If you’re like me, there are ministries all around you who need funding to keep doing what they’re doing. There are ministers and missionaries who require money to fulfill their calling. There are people who need your counseling and time to minister to them and to help get them through a rough patch. Whether it’s time or money, we only have a limited amount of it, and I want to be wise with where I spend either. I want what I give to make the greatest impact possible.
The idea for the prayer came from a parable jesus taught in Luke 8. He spoke of a farmer who scattered seeds all around. Some fell on the side of the path, some fell in the rocks, some fell among the thorn bushes and some in fertile soil. No matter where it fell, things happened that caused the seeds not to produce. Only the seeds planted in fertile soil were able to withstand the things that tried to prevent growth. But verse 15 said, “The seeds that fell in good soil stand for those who hear the message and retain it in a good and obedient heart, and they persist until they bear fruit” (GNT). I love that those seeds persisted through whatever came against them and reproduced more fruit.
You and I are like that farmer. We scatter seeds wherever we go through giving of our time, our resources and our money. I believe that we can have wisdom in where we scatter those seeds and that we can do things to help those seeds persist until they reproduce. A farmer doesn’t just scatter seeds. They water them, enrich the soil with nutrients and pull weeds around them. If we want to maximize the harvest, we need wisdom in how and where we spend our time and money. It’s God who gives the harvest, but He only does that when we give when and where He tells us because only He knows which soil is fertile.
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When you think of Christians who are known for their good deeds, Mother Teresa usually tops the list. She is someone who gave her life to those who were less fortunate than herself. While she is certainly the most famous, she’s not the only Christian to be known for her good deeds. In fact, each of us should be doing things for others, not as a requirement for salvation, but as a fruit of it. Giving to others should spring out of our love for God.
When I look at my own circle of friends, I’ve got friends who care for orphans, feed the homeless, provide disaster relief around the world, are surrogate mothers for those who can’t have children, run foster homes, who give money sacrificially, are missionaries and so much more. Jesus said we would be known for our love and our fruit. To do good deeds, you don’t have to do big things that change the world. Just do something that changes the world for one person at a time.
Romans 7:4 says, “And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God” (NLT). When we become Christians, each of us are capable of producing a harvest of good deeds. The only way to get any harvest is by planting seeds. Look around you today. See where you can plant seeds of God’s love in other people’s lives through a good deed. This world needs to see more of God’s love, and you and I are the ones He’s called to do it.
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As a kid, the greatest thing about Christmas was getting presents. Now, as an adult, it’s giving them. Instead of being consumed by the anticipation of wondering what’s in the wrapped box, now there’s the anticipation of their reaction. For me, the excitement is in the waiting up until Christmas thinking about how much they’re going to love it. The feeling of getting the right gift for someone else is priceless.
Did you know that giving is good for you? Studies show that giving gifts builds your emotional heal as well as your relationships with others. “The Psychology Behind Gift Giving” by South University says, “Giving a gift is a universal way to show interest, appreciation, and gratitude, as well as strengthen bonds with others.“ It also has greater value to you if you give without expecting anything in return.
You and I were created to give. When Genesis says that we were made in the image of God, I believe that’s one of His attributes that we were given. Think about the most famous scripture in the Bible. John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world so much that He GAVE His only begotten Son” (KJV). We give gifts because God is a giver. He gave us life through creation. He gave us His Son so that we could be with Him one day. He also encourages us to follow His example of giving.
Acts 20:35 says, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed [and brings greater joy] to give than to receive’” (AMP). This Christmas season, focus on giving more than receiving. Find someone who has no ability to return the favor of buying you a gift, a give them a gift that will bless them. You’ll get psychological and spiritual benefits, and it will help you connect with your creator. This year, discover the importance of giving.
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I love the story in Luke where Jesus was watching the offering box as people gave. Many people gave large amounts and people took notice. Then there was a widow woman who walked up. She grabbed two small coins and put them in the offering. Jesus exclaimed that this poor widow had given more than everyone else. Confused, the disciples wondered how. Jesus then explained that others gave out of their abundance, but she gave from her need. She didn’t find an excuse not to give because she was generous.
God loves it when we learn to give generously. I say “learn” because for most of us, it’s not natural to be generous. We’ve worked hard for our money and value it, but that is often what makes us stingy. When we are stingy, we forget that God is our source of income. We think of ourselves as the provider and therefore want to only give when we have left over money. But if we view God as our provider, we see the money as His and are free to give it away.
Deuteronomy 15:10 says, “Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers GOD, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures” (MSG). When we give generously, it triggers God’s blessing in every area of our life. It tells God that you no longer see yourself as the source of your income, and that means He can trust you with more.
In Luke 6:38, Jesus put it this way, “Give and it shall be given unto you.” He went on to say that the same measure you use to give, will be used to give back to you. When we are generous, God is generous. You don’t have to have a lot to give a lot in God’s eyes. He can take a small gift and multiply it so there’s left overs (see the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish). We have to get out of the scarcity mindset and into the abundant one. Give freely and spontaneously. It’s not your money anyway – it’s God’s!
I’m a proponent of paying it forward. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it’s that you do good deeds for others, especially those who can’t pay you back. Instead of them paying you back, you ask them to do something good for someone else when they have the ability. I’ve been the recipient of many of these deeds growing up. I had never heard of the concept of paying it forward until one couple who blessed me tremendously told me I could pay them back by doing something for someone else one day.
I’ve never forgotten what they did, and have tried to be generous to others as a result. What they did was plant a seed of generosity into my life, and over time that seed has become a tree. When you think of an orange seed, it doesn’t just produce an orange. It produces a tree capable of producing many seasons of oranges that are capable themselves of many trees. Seeds are not a one for one thing. They’re a one for many thing. They take root, grow and continuously produce.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life” (NLT). The writer knew about paying it forward all those centuries ago. He understood that when you bless those who can’t pay you back, you plant seeds that grow into trees and they become a tree of life. Most all of us need help at some point in our lives when we are incapable of paying it back. Don’t turn away the seeds that someone else wants to plant into your life. One day, that tree they planted will be needed to produce for someone else.