Gifts from the heart and treasures in heaven
Dr Ang Chin Sim // December 12, 2022, 2:27 pm
Jesus is more interested in how we give rather than how much we give, says Dr Ang Chin Sim. He looks at the motive and heart. Photo by Freestocks on Unsplash.
As the year draws to a close, we are often bombarded by commercial marketing urging us to “get that special gift for that special someone”.
While gifts are customary in festivals, if we are absolutely honest, we may actually have misgivings about gifts. It can be a chore to think of what to give people, especially if you have a lot of friends and family members whom you feel obliged to reciprocate.
Some of my friends have complained of staying up the whole night in a last minute dash to get the presents ready for Christmas and that may put a damper on the joy of giving.
So what should our attitude toward giving be? Is it an obligation, with guilt laden feelings if we forget to give or seem stingy in our giving? Is it to trumpet our own horn and show how much we can give in comparison to others?
For a Christian, the decision to give is rooted in God and our relationship with Him. Therefore let us consider the following:
We are His possession
· “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,” writes the psalmist, “the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1)
He has given us free will and the stewardship to manage what actually is His.
We are created by God. Everything we are and have, belong to Him in totality. We are God’s possession.
· “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. (1 Peter 2:9)
Since God owns everything He has created, He has the prerogative to determine how we and what we think we own should be managed.
Nonetheless, God wonderfully didn’t create us to be robot-like creatures. He has given us free will and the stewardship to manage what actually is His.
We are rich with abundant blessings
· “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
For a Christian, the decision to give is rooted in God and our relationship with Him.
· “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
While economic situations are currently unfavourable around the world, we must remember that we are rich because of what Christ has done for us. Christ who was rich, came to earth as a human, born in a manger, born in a very humble setting.
He came with no fanfare although He is the King of Kings. He came to save us by sacrificing His life in the place of ours so that we could have life and have it abundantly.
· “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)
We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Not just one or two or a couple of blessings, but every spiritual blessing! How amazingly generous this is.
Our heart matters
Upon the realisation that we have been given so much, our response in gratitude and worship is to give in return.
Spikenard perfumes were often used as investments and the best perfume was often preserved in alabaster as a family heirloom.
In Mark 14:3-9, while Jesus was at the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some who were present, said indignantly to one another that the woman had wasted this perfume as it could have been sold for a huge sum of money and the money could have been given to the poor. Jesus told them to leave her alone as the poor would always be with them but they would not always have Jesus and that wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world what she has done will be told in memory of her.
This perfume was an extravagant display of worship and devotion to Jesus. The spikenard perfumes were often used as investments because they were small, portable and could be easily sold.
She was so overwhelmed by her love for Jesus, that her action demonstrated what was in her heart.
The best perfume was often preserved in alabaster, and this could be made a family heirloom that was passed from one generation to another, for instance from mother to daughter.
The fact that she broke the jar, meant that she was pouring the entire contents on Jesus’ head and not just putting a few drops from the bottle.
Usually when a guest arrived for a meal, the custom was to anoint the guest’s head with a dab of oil. Hence the woman went much further than what was customary, a very lavish and apparently wasteful display in the sight of the dissenters. Yet, what an overflowing gift from the heart of worship!
It was her attitude that distinguished her from the dissenters. She was so overwhelmed by her love for Jesus, that her action demonstrated what was in her heart.
The important source
Does it mean that if we are not wealthy, our gifts will not be significant?
The widow’s mite story is presented in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4. Two mites are together worth a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin. This is worth about six minutes of an average daily wage.
Jesus was observing how the crowd was putting money into the temple treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came in to put her two mites. But Jesus said that this poor widow had put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.
The English transliteration of “cheerful” (hilaros) paints the picture of a person who gives with a heart that is bubbling over.
Jesus is more interested in how we give rather than how much we give. He looks at the motive and heart. The widow gave with tremendous generosity. The spirit of giving determines the value of the gift more than the amount. The widow could have rationalised and decided to give only when she had more to spare.
However, she who had virtually nothing, gave it all. This means that we can all please God with our giving if our attitude is right. Whatever we give from our hearts as a sacrifice of praise is indeed precious to God.
· “Let us each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
The English transliteration of the word for “cheerful” (hilaros) is hilarious, giving the picture of a person who so joyously gives with a heart that is bubbling over.
Our giving is a reflection and joyous celebration of the bounty that God has given.
Treasures in heaven
· “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21)
If we want to invest well, look at investing in heaven, because this passing world with its passing fancies will not last.
As our earthly bodies will eventually fade and perish, so it will be with our earthly possessions.
So if we want to invest well, look at investing in heaven, because this passing world with its passing fancies will not last. Treasures in heaven are what we do with our heart, its motives and intentions. It’s the faithfulness in which we render our service to God.
Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed by the people he was reaching out to, wrote this famous saying: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
Since we are God’s possession and everything we have is actually His, let us give richly and joyously from the heart, not hoarding our earthly treasures.
In whatever we give or do, let us purpose in our hearts to lay up treasures in heaven.
May you be blessed by giving!
He designs witty Christian gifts as a way to lead others to the light
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