What’s Behind Gift Giving?
(Read Titus 3:4-7; Ephesians 2:8-10)
By Guest Author
While my wife, daughter, Cedar, her border collie, and I were going for a sunset paddle tonight, we were engaged in a lively discussion about gift giving. We had received some gifts from friends who we didn’t have gifts for this year. It was partially a timing thing, partially a Covid thing, and partially just being forgetful. Awkward. Our nature is to follow up by going out and getting them something, but gift giving shouldn’t be about obligation or payback.
“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Giving gifts comes in many forms for many reasons. But God’s gift, His greatest gift to us was solely a gift of love. This gift wasn’t merely the birth of God’s son, it was the gift of grace and hope that came with his son. As Martin Luther explained on Christmas Day in 1530, “How could God have shown his goodness in a more sublime manner than by humbling himself to partake of flesh and blood?” The ultimate expression of God’s love and kindness towards mankind, is anchored in his eternal plan of redemption — in the gift of his son. God’s plan of salvation was appointed to Christ and secured on the cross.
As explained in verse 3 of this chapter, we’re reminded of our dire need to be rescued.
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”
Then, God’s indescribable loving kindness presents us with the perfect gift of a savior in the form of a baby. So, we go from immoral living to a changed life because of God himself. Some refer to this example as one of the “Great Reversals” where God takes something we’re accustomed to (in this case, our degenerate condition in verse 3) and rotates it 180 degrees. He alone is the reason for the changed life of a believer, not by our efforts. Interestingly, the Greeks at that time thought their righteousness came from conforming to tradition, the Jews thought it came from obedience to Mosaic Law.
My daughter pointed out to my wife and me that a gift is a gesture of love, it’s not something that should be repaid out of obligation. Repaying a gift out of obligation dissolves the love of the gift given to us. This is also true of the gift of Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do to repay God’s love. As believers, there are things God expects from us, outward and inward signs of our faith — but even these will never square up with God because we have nothing comparable to repay him with.
“the love of God our Savior toward man appeared”
With this gift, God’s overflowing loving kindness appeared (epiphaino). Notice the similarity to the word epiphany. “To show to,” “to bring to light,” “to become visible,” or “to become clearly known.” God’s abundant love appeared in a lowly manger while cradling baby Jesus and every time someone comes to believe in Jesus by faith.
From the beginning of time, God knew his plans for us. He gave us eternal life out of the depth of his loving kindness and compassion. Out of the greatness of God’s love for mankind, God willingly came to earth as a poor, humble baby only to later give himself up for us.
“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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
When I read this passage in Ephesians, I’m blown away by God’s generosity, by his favor. God planned this “beforehand,” so that we may be-like, walk-like, serve-like Christ Jesus. Since God’s grace is not of our own doing, and we can’t pay it back, we simply need to accept it. Christmas has different meanings for many people. For believers, Christmas is about one thing — a gift, given to us out of love. This gift should elicit humility, wonder, and hope. Humility, in knowing we did nothing to earn it; wonder, about the depth of God’s love; and hope in our Savior’s return. Be joyous, embrace and welcome God’s love. Merry Christmas!
“Grace comes into the soul, as the morning sun into the world; first a dawning; then a light; and at last the sun in his full and excellent brightness.”
– Thomas Adams
This Christmas appreciate what Jesus has done in your life.
Listed below are promises that Jesus made. Read each of these lines of scripture and contemplate how Jesus has delivered them in your life.
- I will give you rest — Matthew 11:28
- When You Think it’s Impossible — Mark 10:27
- When You’re Ready to Give up — Matthew 24:13
- When You Need a Reminder — John 16:33
- When Your Faith is Low — Mark 11:24
- When you Lose Hope and Stray Away — John 15:3
- When You Need a Calling — Matthew 5:14
- When You Lose Focus on Your Priority — Matthew 6:33
- When You Don’t Feel Your Worth — Matthew 6:26
- When You Think it’s Impossible — Matthew 9:23
- Remember All the Times Jesus has Been There for You in the Past — John 14:9
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.