Christmas is the season when we celebrate God’s gift to us: his son. God gave this gift to mankind and thus to each and every one of us. It is a gift any of us can receive but none of us deserve.
Because this gift was given to everyone, it seems that God gives gifts indiscriminately. But does he? And what discernments, if any, should we use when giving?
I can think of four guidelines:
1. Give to the truly needy.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Widows and orphans in this first century culture had it rough; they would commonly beg to survive unless family members intervened. Christians were therefore called to step up and help. The principle has not changed; believers still need to seek opportunities to help those with real needs. Many single moms, for example, are “truly needy”.
I think this type of giving parallels God’s gift of his son. Such an extravagant gift, while given to all, was not really given indiscriminately. It is just that all of us, apart from God’s intervention, are helpless and destitute spiritually. We are all truly needy.
2. Give to those who will use the gift.
In the parable of the talents (Mat 25:14-30), Jesus gave more talents to the ones who used what they had. We should therefore seek to bless those (missionaries, ministers, charities, etc) who have demonstrated that they are responsible with whatever gifts they already have.
3. Do not give to those who won’t work.
2Th 3: 10,11 reads, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.” Giving to a lazy person does not help that person; it only encourages more laziness. Not eating, on the other hand, will motivate a lazy person to work. God expects our gifts to bless, not harm, the recipients.
4. Give from your strength.
Proverbs 21:20 says, “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” Wisdom is saving; foolishness is living pay check to pay check. God is a giver because he has a surplus. As much as our hearts may tug us to help those in need, we simply can’t do it if we don’t have the money. We therefore need to become wise, living on less than we make and avoiding debt like a plague, so we can be more like God. Stated bluntly, that $600 a month car payment may be keeping you from being the giver God wants you to be. Only the strong can help the weak. Decide today to set yourself on a pathway of financial strength. Not only will you be better for it, those you give to will be blessed.
Readers: what other guidelines for giving can you think of? Your input is greatly appreciated.