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Do You Give Good Gifts? (Goal of Giving #4)

Good intentions don’t always lead to good gifts. Our generosity might not be the blessing we hoped for. We need to think about the results of what will happen when we give. So we don’t give bad gifts.

There was a pastor in San Francisco who had to work nights for his father’s business to makes ends meet. His family desperately needed a new van, but couldn’t afford it. One day he came home to his father standing in his driveway, right next to a brand-new minivan. He threw the keys to his son, which  stunned the pastor, and said, “We paid the down payment on it, and all you have to do is takeover the payments.”

Now, the pastor had to make a decision. Take the gift (along with the payments), or say no and potentially embarrass his dad? The father did put down some money (a few grand), but the payments would be much more of a burden than they could handle. While I can attest that his dad loved him, wanted to help, chose to give of his own free will, and gave somewhat substantially… the gift wasn’t a blessing for his son’s family. In the end, the pastor said no.

If a gift isn’t good, it becomes a curse.

That sounds like a given, but we don’t always think through the implications of our giving. Will this gift actually bless someone, or will there be repercussions? Like buying your kid a puppy, without thinking about the fact it has to be let out to go potty and, you know, actually eat. Which is why I’ll never own a puppy; I know I’d end up being the one to stand outside in the cold waiting for it to finish it’s business.

It can also happen with our generosity to those in the most need. Hoping to help, but without forethought, we might cause more harm than good. This is why many church’s are very selective in what they give through benevolence to people asking for help. Many opt to give people physical goods (like a bag of clothes and supplies) as well as gift cards to grocery stores instead of a hundred dollar bill.

When I’ve visited Haiti with the non-profit Bold Hope, they directed us not give money to the Haitian people we meet. While good intentioned, handouts change the relationship with the people they were there to serve. It’s what they call a “Santa Clause from the North.” Bold Hope’s strategy is to teach and train the Haitian people, giving them valuable skills to make their own living, while also providing food and necessities. A handout is good for the moment, but learning a trade to provide for their family themselves is better for their entire life.

This leads us to the final Goal of Giving:

#4 Give Good Gifts.

All good things come from God. Generosity is a blessing, not a burden.

  • Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 
  • If you then know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matt. 7:11

Our god is crazy generous, and he loves to bless us. But He knew that gifts also have the potential to be harmful. You can tell from the way he particularly planned the gift of salvation. We can’t earn it, which protects us from indulging our own arrogance and pride in the process.

  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:9

And that should be our goal as well as we give and serve other people. That our generosity would be to bless people, and not cause additional unintended harm.

  • And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.“ I Thessalonians 5:14-15 

The Bible says repeatedly that we were created for works, specifically GOOD works. This is our calling card. Our mission. Our marching orders.

  • “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
  • What is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
  • “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8
  • “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.” Collosians 1:10
  • “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19 

(There are many, many more verses, which you can read here)

And when it speaks specifically of generosity to the poor and those in need, again the focus is on doing good things that serve them. Not longwinded platitudes.

  • “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17 

When we give, do we think with the end in mind? Will what I’m doing, giving, saying, or how I’m responding be a benefit to them? Or will it be a burden?

Let’s give good gifts.

*Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash. Enhanced by J.B.

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