Christmas is right around the corner. As an adult, I love Christmas because of the long history associated with Christ’s advent. I get caught up in the incarnation and overwhelmed with God’s commitment to his people.
As a dad I just love the presents. I love giving my kids gifts. I love choosing their gifts. I love wrapping and hiding and sneaking in the house with my kids’ gifts. I love watching my kids open their gifts. I love watching Carmel come to the realization that I have bought extra gifts without her knowing.
But the worst part—in fact, it’s the only bad part—about giving is the inevitable moment when the kids mentally take ownership of what they’ve been given.
“Give it back, that’s mine.”
“That’s mine—get your own.”
“Hey, those are my toys.”
“Mom, Jacob stole my princess cupcake cherry blossom.”
“Dad, Anna keeps touching my super-ninja macho donkey wrestler.”
My kids quickly transition from grateful recipients to greedy mongrels of questionable parentage, usually before lunch on Christmas Day.
We are all like that, at least a little.
God is the ultimate giver. He has given us everything. But his gifts are not aimless. God doesn’t intend for us to become hoarders. He gives to us so we can become joyful givers, conduits of his generous grace.
“[Our] trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6.17
Every Christian person must undergo the transformation from being a getter to being an earner, then from earner to giver. “Getters” are those who feel entitled to receive the things others have earned. They do nothing for themselves. They are lazy. They want others to solve their problems. Clearly, this is not an acceptable attitude for Christians.
“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!” Proverbs 6.6
“Earners” are those who believe everything they have is a result of their own efforts and achievements. This is a better attitude than being a getter (“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.” Deuteronomy 8.18) but it still falls short of God’s intention. After all, there are plenty of things we have that we did not earn. Much of what we have, we have because of the happy fact that we were born into a privileged time and place in human history. Much of what we have we owe to our parents, our faith, our government, our friends, good luck, good timing, and God’s grace (see Ecclesiastes 9.11). The danger of only being an earner is that we think we deserve the good things we have, and—even worse—do not deserve the good things we’ve been denied. The more we feel like there are good things we deserve but don’t get, the more we’re in danger of reverting back to being getters who feel entitled to things we don’t possess.
Ultimately God wants us to become givers like he is. God’s gifts flow to us, then through us. We are conduits of blessing. Insofar as the things we have are destined for our use, we are permitted—encouraged, even—to enjoy them; but whatever we have we are meant to share.
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13.16
God gives us what we need, and we are meant to pass that on to others lavishly, hilariously, and with much enthusiasm.
Modern Christmas celebrations are the ultimate demonstration of his generosity. I mean, think about it. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday but we get all the presents.
Who does that?