Why do you give presents?

Posted on November 16, 2013 · Posted in Parenting, Ruling Desires

Giving to honor God is not necessarily the same as giving to make your child happy. In fact, the two goals may be in opposition to each other! The ultimate example of giving to glorify God is Jesus Christ. Christ’s gift was selfless, pure and holy. Let’s take a look at each of these three qualities. While we can never match these qualities in our own gift giving, nonetheless, they are the standard.


From a human perspective there was nothing in what Christ did that was a benefit to him. His joy was in doing what the Father wanted. He did not give selfishly, to get something back. One trap in gift giving is the expectation of appreciation. You think and plan for weeks to get just the right gift for your 10-year-old. It is an expensive gift. Your son tears off the wrapping, opens the box, looks for a moment, and then looks up and says a half-hearted thanks—and immediately dives for  the next present. You’re crushed. How could he not appreciate the love and sacrifice that went into that gift? Some of the joy of the day has gone. When this happens the gift was not really for your child. It was, at least in part, for you. You were hoping, expecting, to receive as well as to give. This is not selfless, but selfish. Gifts should not be given with an expectation of earning gratitude. Giving that is selfless finds delight in giving, not in receiving.


Purity in giving means giving with motives that are undiluted. Giving gifts is not the time to make up for past sins. If you have been short or insensitive with your children, don’t attempt to make it up by giving great gifts at Christmas. Those sorts of sins are only covered by repentance, which then produces sensitivity and pleasant words. Don’t use a pile of presents under the tree as a substitute for your failings as a parent. Atonement was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, not by a Playstation purchased on a credit card. Give gifts simply because you love others and desire to give them good gifts. Purity is expressed by joy in the very act of giving. there are more important gifts to give your children than ones that you wrap.


Following Christ in giving also means that your gifts must be holy. Your gifts must not be stained by the love of the world. If you choose gifts that are based primarily on what the world thinks is cool, the gift is not a holy gift. If your gift is an attempt to make the recipient beholden to you, it is not a holy gift. Holy giving means that you can give the gift knowing that this gift will please God and help your child honor God. A new bike can be given as an expression of love and a means of helping your child actively enjoy creation. Or it can be an attempt to earn his loyalty and cooperation. One way is holy and the other is not.

Giving that incurs undue debt does not model Christ. Giving that attempts to buy respect or appreciation does not model Christ. Giving that attempts to atone or appease is not honoring to Christ.

Some gifts given at Christmas would be better repackaged and given throughout the year. The overtime it took to earn the money to buy the really special gift might have been better invested in being home and spending time with your child. This year, seek Christ as your example for giving gifts.

Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.