Every Christmas, I could not wait to open my presents. Like many, I used the days before Christmas as a time to hone my detective skills by sneaking around my parents’ bedroom and shaking presents. Although I great enjoyed seeing out tree surrounded by pretty boxes with my name listed in the “to” section, I was much less enthusiastic about having to write my name after the word “from.” After buying presents for two parents, four siblings and the occasional grandparent, my little stash of cash typically dwindle down into single digits every December. But I continued to convince my little unredeemed heart to give because I wanted others to contribute to my stash of gifts.
As followers of Christ, we often enter church life with a similar attitude. We serve at church for the purpose of being served. We pass out bulletins, or serve in the nursery because the head pastor is supposed to visit us in the hospital, because our small group is to meet our every unspoken need, and because the youth pastor can “fix” our child. If the church fails in any area, we reserve the right to withdraw from these events and stop tithing. Like my little child self, we assume that if we are not getting gifts, we should not give them. But this thinking misses the biggest gift of all, salvation.
We were all destined for death and destruction before Christ. There was nothing about our accomplishments, our church attendance, or our prayers that caused God to look favorable upon us. Yet, he redeemed our dead hearts clothed in filthy rag by his grace and love. We have received a free underserved gift wrapped in the mercy of God. We can give nothing comparable. If we understand what we have been given, how can we not but want to give?
Now, we minister not to get from earthly sources but to give from our heavenly source. For this reason, we read in the book of James that true religion consists of caring for widows and orphans. Now we must follow the commands of our savior and embrace children, the sick, and the outcasts of society. We are to serve in the nursery, in nursing homes, and on the street corners. Because God’s grace is new every morning, we can never fulfill our ministry quota and coast into spiritual retirement. We have the gift of living water. We must give as long as we live.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”- Mat 5:46