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.
5 thoughts on “Why do you give presents?”
Hello Mr. Younts. First, let me say I really love your blog. My husband and I are trying to read it together everyday and discuss what it says. Thank you. I have a question about this one in the selfless part. You say, “Gifts should not be given with an expectation of earning gratitude.” But, shouldn’t we teach our children to be thankful? God commands us to be thankful, in all circumstances. How should we respond when we’ve given a gift to our children and they are not thankful? I have always thought we should teach them to be thankful. This is not always a “natural” response, but thankfulness should not depend on our feelings, right?
Hi Kim, thanks for your kind and encouraging words! As to your question, you are right that your children should be grateful and it is totally appropriate to teach them to be thankful. The key word in my qualification is about “earning” gratitude on the part of the gift giver. In other words we should not give gifts with the expectation of earning the gratitude of those to whom we give the gift. In the post I was addressing the attitude of the giver, not the recipient. Thanks so much for asking. I hope this helps. If not let me know.
Thanks so much for answering my question and for the clarification. I’d really like to print these out and put them in a book. I do love the computer and the wonderful things I can read on it…from so many different people, but I still really like books! Hmmm…
Thank you, Brother, Gift should bring Joy and Blessing to the person who gives and a person that receives because It should come from the Heart, for the Glory of God!
God Bless you and your future posts too!
Before being acceptable to God, the required ingredient and main motivation in our giving is love. Ironically, we cannot love without His help. When our children ask for money for chores to buy gifts, we gladly pay them generously – not only to buy gifts for others but also for us, the parent, as well. Our greatest joy is in their desire to show love. The ability comes from the parent but the desire comes from the child. Thus our God is both the Author of our gifts as well as the joyful recipient.