by Andrew Cromwell
Over the years I have both given and received lots of "junk gifts". These are the ones often given out of obligation. We feel we must give something because of a birthday or because it is Christmas and the giving of gifts, no matter how lame, is the rule. And although the best intentions are used in the giving of these "wonderful" gifts (after all, who doesn't need another Christmas mug, flamboyant tie or novelty gag gift), most often these gifts are given out of obligation, and not from the heart.
A gift that is given from the heart is always more meaningful, both to the giver and the recipient. There is a certain cost that is exacted from the giver, not necessarily a cost in terms of dollars (although sometimes many dollars are required), but in time, attention and thought. Something is expended by the giver that actually adds value to the gift itself. The most meaningful gifts are those that have taken the most time or are given with the most love.
When the giver does not expend these things, then something important is missing from the gift. We all know what it is like to receive gifts that have little or no monetary value and yet are incredibly meaningful. On the other hand, we know (if not by experience then certainly by imagination) that it is possible to receive a very expensive gift that really has little value to the receiver because it was given with so little thought.
I was reminded of the importance of the "cost" of our gifts while reading the story of David in 1 Chronicles recently. David is at a place in his life when he wants to make an offering to the Lord and he says the following:
"I will not...sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing."
David understood that to give the Lord a "token" or "junk" gift was unacceptable. You don't give the Lord something that doesn't cost you anything—it's an insult. God is the King of the universe, the Maker of everything and the Giver of the very life we enjoy. To give God a gift that cost David no sweat, no effort, no thought—in short, no heart—was unthinkable.
Which begs the question, how often do I give God "worthless" gifts? It is so easy to accept God's love, His grace, His forgiveness and His great plan for my life and repay Him with what is easy. It is easy to tell Him "thank you" with my lips. It is easy to drop a few dollars into the plate now and then. It is easy to act like a nice guy to the right people because I know I should "act like a Christian".
But that costs me nothing. And it's worthless. I've decided it really is. So much of what we do for God and others is just window dressing. We do it to make us feel better. We do it to make us look good. We do it because its easy.
But I think God wants something more. I know He deserves something more. He deserves my whole life. My most valued possessions, my deepest secrets, my greatest fears, my faithfulness and my obedience—He deserves all of them because they cost me to give them to Him. But I find that I don't like giving things that hurt to give. I will do almost anything to wiggle out of doing what I know I should. I excuse myself and my lack of commitment. But then I remember, it cost Him everything, how can I give something that costs me nothing?
The question for all of us is just that—are we willing to give what hurts the most? Because what hurts the most is what is most valuable. I've decided I'm only giving God gifts that cost me something—that hurt me a little to give, have you?