“All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.””
Luke 21:4 NIV
I went to get my haircut on Saturday, and ended up with a lovely hairdresser who recently moved to Brisbane from Newcastle. We got talking about her and her partner and her parents, and the conversation led to talking about Christmas shopping and gifting for family as it tends to do at this time of year. She made a comment that her family have never been able to buy big gifts, but never once did they ever not give each other something. Even if it was a stubby cooler for her dad or a coffee mug for her mum, it was wrapped up to open on Christmas morning… At the time it brought a smile to my face, remembering that even in the hardest times of our family life growing up, buying gifts for each other was never even spoken about as an optional activity at milestones or on special occasions. We just always bought what we could with what we had at the time and enjoyed watching each other open their presents! The next morning on Sunday I read the verse above and it took me back to the conversation…
So now I’m thinking, what is a ‘big’ gift really? Why did my hairdresser seem to have an apologetic tone and feel the need to validate her families gift giving habits? Was it because they were ‘smaller’ or ‘cheaper’ gifts than her perception of what I might buy for my family?
This verse perfectly illustrates that the biggest gifts aren’t at all based upon a numerical or material comparison between costs, amounts or size. They are based upon our heart; our willingness in being generous, our perspective on where what we have truly comes from. We weren’t born with possessions, we were given all we have, big or small, in some way from someone, who also was given all they have. Even the opportunities we had were given to us, regardless of whether we searched for them or they were handed to us, and we either took them or we didn’t.
One person can give a large, costly gift, and a second person can give a tiny, inexpensive gift in comparison, but still be giving more. It’s about the sacrifice and what giving that means to us. How much does a large gift really cost someone who has a thousand times that still left over? How much does a tiny gift actually cost someone who just gave a stranger the last $20 they had, of which they had originally planned to spend on petrol for their beat up Toyota Corolla in order to get to work? (Corollas are a great first car by the way, had a bright yellow one myself!)
If I was the receiver of the gift which would I think was a better gift? Would I be more thankful for the larger gift for what it means to me, or would I see the tiny gift and take the time to realise that maybe that ‘small’ act of generosity could be much ‘bigger’ than it seems? It’s not about how I receive a gift, or how anybody else does for that matter, that determines its ‘size,’ it’s about the heart of the giver. The ‘size’ of a gift is determined by how willing I am to put someone else’s needs or provision above my own needs or concern for provision.
When I first read this next verse back in the day, it never made sense, but it certainly does now:
“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”
Proverbs? ?11:24? ?NIV??
No gift I give is a waste, ‘big’ or ‘small’ but I have found that when I have trusted God with providing for me, it has brought more return and stability in my life than trying to hold on and accumulate things at the expense of others, whether that be with my bank account, my time or with material things that I own. I now actually get a little excited to forego a bought lunch at work so I have spare cash to buy someone a coffee, something my wife leads by example with!
By trusting God, what I gain from being generous is far more valuable than just the material value of what I give, which is all I stand to receive by withholding it. It starts small, and I still do hesitate, but I’ve never felt more fulfilled being generous than I do when I have sacrificed my immediate needs for someone else’s, and then see God come through for me.