Giving Gifts

If you give gladly, even if you give only a little, it is a big gift. If you give unwillingly, even if you give a big gift, you turn it into a small one. – St. John Chrysostom

And though every day a man lives may rightly be a day of repentance, yet is it in these days more becoming, more appropriate, to confess our sins, to fast, and to give alms to the poor; since in these days you may wash clean the sins of the whole year.” – St. John Chrysostom – “The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers”
It is the time of year that we have been thinking about Gift Giving.  Why mainly this time of year — the media most likely plays a big part in this mind-set.  So should we as Orthodox Christians Give?
To give is a fundamental human need for two reasons. Firstly, we human beings are created in God’s image, and God reveals Himself above all as One who expresses Himself in compassion and love. In other words, He is a God who gives. Our salvation rests on that truth. The Gospel tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son … ” (John 3:16).
Secondly, as Orthodox Christians we are subject to the law of love, taught by Christ both in word and example. We, therefore, have a need to give because the essence of love is giving, the sharing of oneself with others. One of our Lord’s parables, the familiar story of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus, tells us this (Luke 16:19-31). Christ speaks movingly of the poor man’s needs, but he also focuses on the rich man’s hardheartedness. The rich man had a need, too – the need to grow in love and compassion and to express that love by helping his poor neighbor. The rich man shows that his only real concern is for himself when he gives the beggar only the crumbs from his table and devotes the rest of his wealth to providing himself with fine clothing and sumptuous banquets. Unfortunately many people give to the their family, friends, and the Church in the same way, dedicating their resources to themselves and leaving their family, friends, and parishes with the crumbs left over.
We need, above all, to see gift giving as a part of our spiritual life. We must recognize that, like prayer, fasting, and Scripture reading, etc., gift giving is something which contributes to our growth in God’s image and likeness. When we do this we not only grow personally, but we provide our family, friends,and Church with the resources necessary to fulfill the mission which Christ has created them to perform.
So with that in mind, every Christmas/Nativity season, if you are an Orthodox Christian, you should always remember and honor the birth of Christ. Giving Christian gifts to your family, friends, Church and fellow church members is one of the appropriate ways of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and in the traditional gift-giving aspect of Christmas as portrayed in the Book of Matthew.
 

Giving your family, friends, Church and fellow church members Christian gifts as Christmas gifts will be truly special to their lives all year long. They serve as a reminder of our love for Christ, and our Father in Heaven. They will also serve as symbols of encouragement. They emphasize on our family core values that all Christians hold dear, and want to pass along to all. They are a visual reminder of the Christian way of life for anyone who displays them.

Christian giving is the grace of God at work, the free-flow of God’s activity consistent with His character.  Since God is the owner and giver of all things, we are but trustees, managers, stewards of Another’s goods. God entrusts some things to us ­ whatever He can trust us with. It is not “my” home, “my” car, “my” money, or even “my” child. I must avoid being “possessive.” I am just a trustee of God’s possessions. In fact, I do not even “possess” salvation or eternal life. Christ who is “Life” (John 14:6) and is the Savior, possesses me!  Christian giving is the grace of God functioning in and through a Christian, the givingness of God expressed in the character of a Christian.

The result of genuine Christian giving will be “thanksgiving to God” (II Corinthians 9:11,12). Thanksgiving which recognizes the “good grace” of God in the midst of the giving and the supply of the need. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable and inexpressible gift in Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 9:15).

So if we should give what should we think about?  There are several good guides out there, though one of them is the advice from Dave Ramsey in his 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Gift.

Orthodox Christian living is Christian giving! Genuine Orthodox Christians who are submitting themselves to their Faith in Jesus Christ and are listening to God in obedience, cannot help but express the character of God’s givingness. There will be no need to beg or cajole these Christians to give. No genuine Christian can say, “Well, it’s just not my nature to give.” As Christians we are “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4), and God’s nature is a giving nature. As God lives in us He gives through us. Such is Christian giving, the expression of God’s grace!

Are you truly living the life of an Orthodox Christian? Or are you just one in name only?  Are you a giver just at this time of the year, or year round?  You have to decide, as I also have to decide.

40DAYSBLOG

This is day twenty-one of the 40 Days of Blogging.
For more articles on Gift-Giving, check out these bloggers.

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About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR and serve as Rector at St. Joseph of Optina Parish in Virginia Beach, VA
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