If you have been a reader of our family blog for a long time, then you have journeyed with us through years of holiday changes. Back when Jeremy and i first got married, we enjoyed family holiday time like most American’s do. We went shopping on Black Friday for deals, we made a list of all the people we needed to get gifts for, and in our minds we also made wish lists of things we hoped to get for gifts. I will admit it was fun looking for and shopping for gifts for all the people in my life. Finding that perfect gift was always fun. But there was also a stress to it. Did I really have money for all these gifts, and if I do have all this money should I be using it for something else? Oh, I think showing love by giving gifts is a wonderful thing. But, in the back of my mind I often wondered about those who had so little or nothing.
As the years past, Jeremy and I were blessed with children. Like all parents, we wanted to give them the world. We loved buying them things too. At holiday times, we would look for the perfect gifts for our children. As our children grew and got older they started realizing holiday time meant presents. Grandparents ask them what they want, and even ask them to give them a list of things they want.
Then something changed, about the time our oldest two were six, they started realizing there are poor people and needy people. They started asking us to give their holiday gifts to the needy instead. I want to tell you that as a mom, I was so pleased with their sacrifice. I want to tell you that Jeremy and I just said yes and started giving to the poor and needy. But that would be a lie. Instead, my heart was in conflict. I still wanted to give my kids gifts and things at holiday time. So, I made a compromise. I gave a portion of what I would spend on my children to the needy. Then I still bought my kids gifts. You may be thinking, that is wonderful, that is what I would have done too.
Well, I want to tell you that I am not certain that is wonderful. You see my family, my children, my friends are very wealthy and blessed people. We eat several times a day, we have lots of clothes to wear, we have a home to live in and be warm, we have lots of toys and electronics, we have vehicles to take us places, we even have lots and lots of frivolous things. We have so much and we have no idea of what it is truly like to be in want. Even when we have been at our most desperate hour, we have not been truly in need. In fact, in our country, just about anyone can go and get food and shelter if they humble themselves.
So, what does the Bible say about gift giving? What does it say about celebrating with gift giving? Should I teach my children that holiday time is a time to receive and exchange gifts? Does God want us to focus on presents at His feasts? Do I give my children birthday presents? These are question I have pondered off and on over the years. I can honestly tell you I have no clear answer. But here are some verses that have been helpful to our family when it comes to gift giving and receiving.
12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.
Deuteronomy 15:10 – “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”
Proverbs 21:26 – “The righteous gives and does not hold back.”
Proverbs 3:27 – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”
Proverbs 11:24-25 – “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.”
1 Chronicles 29:9 – “Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.”
Proverbs 22:9 – “He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.”
Proverbs 28:27 – “He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.”
Malachi 3:10 – “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'”
2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”
Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish, but would have eternal life.”
Acts 20:35 – “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
James 2:15-16 – “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”
You will find there are lots and lots of verses about giving generously. There are lots of verses about giving to the poor and needy. There are lots of verse about YHVH God giving to us. There are lots and lots of verses about giving to YHVH out of love.
But there are very few verses about giving to those who already have all they need. There are not so many verses about giving to people who will appreciate your gift.
So, it became the question of my heart, do I give my children, family, friends, spouse gifts because I love them or they need what I am giving them? Or do I give gifts to those in my life because of selfish reasons? This is a hard hitting question. Luke 14 above really hit me hard. I do not need to give to those who are not in need do I. What happens when we give those who are not in need more and more?
Greed and selfishness sets in. The more I have the more I need or want. We loose our attitude of appreciation for the blessings we already have.
It has been several years since we have had Christmas presents in our own home. But a couple years ago, we tried giving our children gifts similar to giving of Christmas gifts at Sukkot. Honestly, we all went away from that experience and said we did not enjoy it or appreciate it. It did not seem genuine or meaningful. It just felt weird to our family.
So, if your curious, and wondering if we ever give each other gifts at our house, the answer is all the time. We do give our children a small gift on the day of their birth. We do give our children gifts when we celebrate an accomplishment. We give our children special gifts of meaning as they age and mature to remind them of our love for them and the love of God. We often buy our children things they need or even want when we see it on sale or just think of them. We encourage our children to make and give good gifts to others too. As for holiday giving, truthfully, we don’t buy individual gifts at holiday times. But often we try to give harvest gifts to others. All the feasts of YHVH are about the harvest, so we try and give canned goods or baked goods to people at that time of year if we can.
Now what about receiving gifts. This is the hardest part of not giving gifts at holiday times. Others still give you gifts and you must be humble in accepting these gifts. For our family, we finally a couple years ago, just came right out and told them we would not be doing gift giving at holiday time. It was so hard. Some people still give us gifts. We are grateful and appreciative of their generosity. It is not our job to decide for others how they should use their blessings to bless others. This was the hardest part. But we are all learning and growing.
In closing, people often ask me if my kids miss out on santa, halloween, christmas, easther eggs, etc. The answer is NOPE. Not at all. None of our kids ever feel like they are missing something or being cheated out of something. My kids do not think of presents when they think of the story of Yeshua’s birth, they do not think of eggs when they remember the death and resurrection of Yeshua.