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When I was a student nurse in psychiatry, I was so pleased with a patient’s progress that I got her a gift. My nursing instructor was very unhappy with me.
She gave me the assignment to think of why people give gifts and why people like to receive them. A week later, she conferenced with me to discuss “gifts.”
I’ll never forget what she said. She said, “Remember this for life. A gift is not payment for anything, including good behavior. And withholding a gift for anything, including bad behavior, is not appropriate.”
Many years have passed since that conference. However, various events in my life have prompted me to revisit the subject of gifts. Even now, in October, people are already contemplating Christmas gifts, both what they will give and what they may receive.
Santa stories encourage us to believe if we are good, we get good gifts. If we are not good, we don’t get gifts at all … or maybe a gift that emphasizes how badly we messed up (like a lump of coal).
Santa theology is spread freely this time of year. Unfortunately, we can hear many adults attempting to control the behavior of children by saying, “You better to be good, if you want Santa to bring you anything.”
How easy it is to carry Santa theology over into our concept of God. Often we believe if we are good, God will (or should) pay us with good gifts. And if we end up not getting what we wanted, we come to the conclusion we must have been bad.
Read the story of Job and you will find some of his friends preaching Santa theology to him. Job was in misery. Some of his friends thought it must be because he sinned and offended God. When Job finally wound down enough to listen to God, God never even addressed Job’s sins. He simply painted the picture of how big He was and with what Authority He ran the Universe.
When we realize what God could rightfully give us that would be super negative, most of us will drop to our knees in gratitude that God does not give us what we deserve.
Do You Really Want to be Paid What You Earned?
Paul contrasted how satan works and how God works. If we mess up and “dance with the devil,” there will be consequences. Usually we think it only fair to receive pay for our work. However, when satan is the one waiting to pay us, we may not be as eager to stand in the pay line.
As recorded in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. We sin. Satan is ready to pay us. But while we are in line to receive what we earned, God is happy to cut in line and give us a Gift!
Wages Versus Gifts
For the wages of sin is death,
but the GIFT of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus our Lord!
God’s Gifts are not given as wages for what we earned (either bad or good). They are given in Love as His Favor upon us.
Why would God do such a thing for us? When David the Psalmist contemplated how great God was and how tiny he was in comparison, he just had to ask …
What is mankind that You are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
David asked. Later, Jesus answered.
For God so loved the world
that He gave His One and Only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have Eternal Life!
It was not because of anything we did or did not do. God gave us a Gift simply because He loved us!
Why Would Anyone Not Accept A Wonderful Gift?
So if God gave such an Awesome Gift, why would not everyone have it? If they had this Gift and lived in the Joy of having it, this world would indeed look like Heaven!
The problem is not that The Gift wasn’t given. The problem is that The Gift wasn’t received! How could that be?
I Didn’t Know It Was For Me!
Sometimes we receive a Gift and we simply don’t realize it is for us. Satan is happy to distract us from ever looking at the Gift Tag on any Gift from God. Satan is happy to reinforce any message we ever received that we don’t deserve a gift. We may not recognize that the Gift is for us, because we never expected to receive a Gift in the first place.
I Don’t Know The One Who is Supposedly Giving Me a Gift!
The world in which we live tells us to be careful about opening gifts from people we don’t know. Reports of mail bombs may make us look carefully before we open any unidentified package. Instead of seeking to know the One Who sent the Gift, we may toss it aside (or call the bomb squad!)
We may not know God at all. We may think we know God, but based on our perceptions of some things that have happened in our lives, we don’t trust Him. We may think He used to give Gifts or still gives Gifts to some people, but we don’t believe He would give us a Gift.
I Didn’t Order This!
We like to believe we control our world. If I were to ask you right now, from whom you might receive a Christmas Gift, I’ll bet you could tell me. In similar fashion, we believe we know how God works. We might expect to hear from Him through our church, but we don’t expect to hear from Him through someone we don’t know. God speaks in many ways. A walk through the Bible reveals a very Creative God, Who knew how to get people’s attention!
I Didn’t Get Him Anything!
Have you ever received a gift from someone you didn’t plan to favor with a Gift? Sometimes the “fee for service” model transfers into the burden of having to get something for the Giver before we can relax and receive their Gift to us. And what do you get God, Who truly has everything?
And another thing … If God really favored us with a major Gift, shouldn’t we be a little suspicious of Him? Would you wonder if perhaps He works like the Godfather in the movies and will ask you for “a favor you can’t refuse?”
I Don’t Deserve This!
If we actually open God’s Gift and see the magnitude of it, satan is hysterical! There is only one thing he can do. He quickly moves in and reminds us of our many sins. He tells us we don’t deserve this.
And when we go back to the Santa model, we realize satan is right. We have messed up badly. And if we truly think about our actions, we will realize we have not sinned just in general, but we have sinned against the One giving us the Gift.
Is it possible God does not know we have sinned against Him? And if He finds out, won’t He just be furious with us … after He gave us a wonderful Gift? Perhaps the best thing to do is put the Gift down and run and hide.
What’s wrong with this picture? Go back to the beginning of this post. God gives us Gifts, not because of our performance, but because He loves us!
I Still Don’t Feel Right About This.
We only experience the true freedom to enjoy our Gifts when we have a good relationship with The Giver. God does want to have a loving relationship with us. He wants us to be able to open His Gifts without getting tangled up in the ribbon or getting the tape stuck to our fingers.
So it is right to remove any hindrances to our receiving from Him. That does involve removing anything that would separate us from Him in any way. Simply being genuinely sorry for any missteps and asking Him to forgive us is the first step.
And what happens then? He gives us another Gift!
The Gift of Forgiveness
Hebrews 8:12 records a wonderful Truth of God.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more!
When you repent and receive God’s Forgiveness, He removes those sins from His Memory completely. The stains on your life that you thought would be there forever will be gone from The Memory of God. Therefore you need not remember them any more! Receive the Gift!
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says The Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool!”
Humble or Ungrateful?
Is it ok to brag a little that God gave us such Great Gifts? Yes and No! If you are going to present it as God thinks you are such hot stuff that He gave you Great Gifts, then the focus is on you and not God. That is a bit arrogant!
However, if other people notice you have Great Gifts, then the best witness you can have is to testify to where you got those Gifts. Gratefully tell others how you got them! Testify to God’s Goodness and His Power in working through you!
Will He Take The Gifts Back?
Sometimes we love what God gives us so much that we may have moments when we fear He will take those Gifts back. It may be that we start to listen to satan again and believe we don’t deserve God’s Gifts. It may just seem too good to be true. We may begin to believe we have lost Gifts we once had.
Paul again spoke clearly of God’s Gifts when he said, as recorded in Romans 11:29 (AMP):
For God’s Gifts and His Call are irrevocable.
[He never withdraws them when once they are given
and He does not change His Mind about those
to whom He gives His Grace or to whom He sends His Call!]
Once God gives you a Gift, it is yours. You can choose not to acknowledge it or not to use it wisely or at all. But in God’s Mind, it is yours and He is not taking it back. Never say you used to have something, but you don’t have it anymore. It is still inside of you!
Will you always use your Gift in the same way? Not necessarily. For example, I once worked as a nurse, directly caring for patients. After a time, I stopped practicing every day at the bedside and taught nursing. The Gift was still there, but I used it in a different way.
Delivering Gifts for God!
Sometimes God gives us the additional Gift of being His Delivery Persons. Sometimes He will assign us to deliver to someone we know. Sometimes He will ask us to deliver some of His Gifts to someone we don’t know … but someone He does know, who needs His Gifts. Listen and respond to His Call!
What Determines When and How We Give Gifts?
The commercial industry depends upon being able to cue us as to when to give gifts. Even those of us, who determine to spend less during this Christmas season will be bombarded with so many cues by December 25, that we will spend much more than we planned, be in more turmoil about what we should give to whom, and we will worry about whether it will be something that pleases them. (Yes, performance issues may come up in giving gifts. We want to find the perfect gift and we want to see the looks of delight because we were able to deliver it!)
We may also end up doing a post Christmas tally where we find that we have not been gifted as well as we have given. We may be tempted into feelings of entitlement, deprivation and general depression, especially when the credit card bills start arriving in January (been there, done that … ).
God has no season for Gift Giving. He gives generously all the time. This year, I challenge you to consider what some may consider a radical move. Pray constantly in gratitude for all the Gifts God has given you. Start right now and make a list. It won’t be like Santa’s List because there will be no “good” and “bad” people on it. It will serve as a constant reminder of God’s Love to you. Add to your list every time you think of something.
Every day review your list and praise God for His Provision. And out of this heart of gratitude and recognition of God’s Love, your cup will begin to overflow. You will hear God speak to you about where He wants you to deliver His Gifts. You may find that you won’t be delivering to the people you anticipated you would.
You may find that He may ask you to deliver to someone you don’t know.
Or maybe in His Creative Way, He will ask you to deliver to someone you wish you didn’t know. He may ask you to extend mercy to that person you thought you would never forgive. Perhaps He will ask you to simply forgive them and then forget the sin, as He does.
You may also find you are prompted to give gifts on days that, according to the calendar, don’t seem that special at all. But you will discover that day hidden in ordinary wrap is the most special of all. It will be special because you discovered the Gift of being God’s Giver!
God has given each of you
A Gift from His Great Variety of Spiritual Gifts.
Use them well to serve one another!
1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
This blog is dedicated to Miss Heinley, Nursing Instructor in Psychiatry, Medical University of South Carolina, 1970. I never knew what happened to you, but if these words find their way to you, know that you had a real impact on my life … and your words continue to take root in this time and place. Thank you!