‘Tis the season for giving…right? That’s the mantra of every retailer that ever cared about the bottom line during the Christmas season. In fact, the day that kicks off this season of giving is called ‘black friday’ because retailers do everything in their power to make sure that this time of year is filled with busy, buying shoppers, ready to give away their life savings to find that perfect gift that they can give someone else. Their goal is to so intimidate that shopper into buying a present for one, so that the one receiving, in turn, will feel compelled to turn it around and give a present back. Retailers love it. Why do we do this?
I believe it is all a part of the conspiracy (time to break out the tin foil hats and bunker down)! The conspiracy is to make you give up on giving! It’s not from the retailers (they love it)…I believe it is a tool of the devil…a diabolical conspiracy, if you ask me, because giving has got to be one of the best time honored and true ways to find real and lasting joy. I hear it from a few readers now, “Bahumbug!” But I really believe that giving has a real place in everyone’s life, a place that brings true joy. The joy of giving.
But what happens if the most giving person gives, and gives, and gives some more until they give out on giving? What do you do when you feel spent because you spent too much to find the right gift for the right person only to have as a reaction, “Meh?”
There have been times when I bought someone a present and they opened it, took out the gift, and marveled over the container said gift was transported in, making me wonder, did I spend too much on the packaging or too little on the gift. That happened when my kids were really small. We spent hours finding what we thought was the perfect gift only to find that the box was more fun than the toy permanently affixed to the box. Maybe they tired of trying to rescue the toy from the container or they just believed that the container and toy were one in the same so they played with the box. More than once I contemplated purchasing empty boxes as gifts, but saner heads prevailed.
What happens when you are give out on giving? I believe I have found the answer. It is in giving when you can expect nothing in return. Not a thank you, or a “God bless you” or even a “you are the best person ever” kind of reaction.
Maybe the best kind of giving is the kind of Giving that says…’I am doing this because I want to…and the reaction is not important.’ That’s why we give to food pantries, and to missionaries and to God through the local church. We give because we know that someone, somewhere has bread to eat, or the bread of life to take them into eternity, and I can give without worrying about what they are going to give me in return. I give because I want to, and I know it makes a difference.
That’s why some of our gift giving this year included items from “Soup of Success,” a program to help the participants find their voices, discover their direction, establish their goals, and then help them figure out a way to overcome obstacles and achieve those goals. I know people who have been through their program and they are learning ways to be successful at life. We also give to Teen Challenge (locally through the North Central Indiana Teen Challenge center). This ministry takes students through an intensive program for 12-15 months, introducing them to Jesus Christ and the power of God. Their success rate is off the charts and seeing men set free from life controlling addiction is enough to bring joy to any heart. No gift in return needed or wanted, seeing people set free is enough to make giving worth giving.every.single.time.
There are so many places in every community that feed the hungry, helps the poor, and helps those struggling to get on their feet. Places to give without worrying about what gift will be too large (there is not one organization that will say a gift is too large)…or too small…the gift you give will make a difference in the lives of many, regardless of the container that transport it. With this kind of giving, the ‘thanks’ you get is not a gift in return, but instead, it is a understanding that you are truly making a difference and that someone’s life will never be the same. That kind of giving gives you the kind of feeling that you need this time of year: JOY!
Selfless is what brings the joy back. So, this week, be faithful to give to God at your local church, and find a ministry that is making a difference and drop by with a blessing offering. You never know, what you get in return might just be a gift beyond imagination…the gift of joy!