Giving—A Source of Joy
By Awake! correspondent in Germany
WHO does not enjoy receiving a lovely gift? How heartwarming to know that somebody cares! Similarly gratifying, however, is the joy of giving. In fact, according to Jesus, the founder of Christianity, “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
The Bible reports on many instances of giving, sometimes lavish giving at that. When the queen of Sheba experienced firsthand King Solomon’s wisdom, “she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold and a very great deal of balsam oil and precious stones.” (1 Kings 10:10) Just the gold itself would be worth over 46 million dollars in modern values! And Pharaoh of Egypt once presented one of his daughters with the gift of an entire city!—1 Kings 9:16.
But gifts do not have to be extravagant to be a source of joy. You may remember the kind Samaritan in Jesus’ illustration, who spontaneously helped a fellow human in need. (Luke 10:30-37) Or the Christian congregation in Corinth that sent their needy brothers in Jerusalem a “kind gift.”—1 Corinthians 16:3.
Probably the best-known example of giving mentioned in the Bible, however, is that of the astrologers—commonly known as the wise men—who brought gifts to the child Jesus. Many people base their custom of giving gifts at Christmastime on this event.—Matthew 2:2-11.
What About Christmas Giving?
Undeniably, many sincerely enjoy getting into what they call the Christmas spirit—the spirit of giving. Some of them plan well in advance, taking pride in finding unusual gifts and seeking out appropriate cards. The latter, by the way, appeared for the first time during the 1840’s in England, although exactly who introduced them is a matter of dispute. But be it a gift or a card, many find real joy in discovering that special something for that special someone.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied that many Christmas givers do not fall into this category. A German store owner observed regarding Christmas shoppers: “The closer we get to Christmas Eve, the more nervous people get. Eventually, they simply settle for anything they can find.”
Pushing through overcrowded department stores in a time-consuming search for suitable gifts causes some shoppers to grumble about the stress, the rush, and the pressure. According to an Austrian newspaper, every third customer complains about “the hectic pace,” saying he will be relieved “once the hurry-scurry is all over.” And German teenagers, when asked how they felt about Christmas, responded with such comments as, “It gets on my nerves,” “You never know what to give,” and, “It’s all so expensive.”
Obviously not everyone is experiencing the greater “happiness in giving” of which Jesus spoke. No doubt this is largely because Christmas has been so commercialized, long a thorn of irritation for many. According to The World Book Encyclopedia, “as much as a fourth of the yearly sales of many stores come at Christmastime.” Evidently the “Jingle Bells” the world of commerce loves to hear the most is played by the jingling bells of its cash registers.
Clearly, Christmas giving often fails to produce the joy that giving should bring. “I dread Christmas,” confessed a Catholic woman.
No wonder the propriety of Christmas giving is being questioned. Does it really make sense?