Do You Have the Spirit of Giving?
HAVE you observed that there is more than one spirit that prompts people to give? A gift may be an expression of love, of generosity, of appreciation. Yet have you not noted that a gift may also come from a person’s desire to be viewed with favor? Or it may be given simply out of a feeling of obligation or because the giver wants something in return.
The gift may be in a package tied with a pretty ribbon. But is it not true that a fine gift may also be a bouquet of flowers, a dish of food, or a kind act? In fact, the gifts that are most deeply appreciated often involve giving of oneself.
Is There Someone Whose Favor You Seek?
It is not unusual for a person to give a gift to one whose favor is sought. In some lands a young man who is seeking to win the heart of a prospective bride may bring her flowers. The wise woman sees beyond the gift though. She considers whether the spirit behind the young man’s gift is a loving one that will also make him a good husband. Such a gift, if it reflects a godly spirit, can lead to much happiness for both the giver and the recipient.
The Bible tells of an occasion when Abigail, the wife of Nabal, quickly prepared a generous gift for David, whom she recognized to be the one chosen by God to be the future king of Israel. She too sought favor. Her husband had spurned David and had screamed rebukes at David’s men. At the head of a band of some 400 armed men, David had set out to bring Nabal and his household to ruin. Abigail intervened, quickly sending to David a generous gift of food supplies for his men. She herself arrived following her gift, and after humbly apologizing for what her husband had done, she gave evidence of great discernment as she reasoned with David.
Her objective was noble, and the outcome was good. David accepted her gift and said to her: “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have listened to your voice that I may have consideration for your person.” Later, after Nabal died, David even proposed marriage to Abigail, and she gladly accepted.—1 Samuel 25:13-42.
In some cases, however, the favor that a person seeks might involve the showing of partiality, even the perversion of justice. In such a case, the gift is a bribe. The giver thinks he will benefit, but he robs himself of peace of mind. There is always the danger that others will find out, that he will be called to account. Even if the desired favor is granted, the one who sought it may find that he now has a reputation of one whose motives are open to question. Reflecting godly wisdom, the Bible warns against such gifts.—Deuteronomy 16:19; Ecclesiastes 7:7.
Does the Gift Come From a Willing Heart?
There is no doubt about it—giving to someone you love because you want to do it brings much more joy than giving because others make you feel that you should.
Concerning the gathering of relief supplies for fellow Christians who were in need materially, the apostle Paul set out some excellent principles of godly giving. “If the readiness is there first,” he wrote, “it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.” He added: “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7) Thus, much depends on you. Instead of going into debt on a gift-giving spree, do you stay within your means? Rather than feeling compelled to give mainly because of social or commercial pressure, do you do what you have resolved in your heart? Of early Christians who applied such godly principles, Paul wrote: “They of their own accord kept begging us with much entreaty for the privilege of kindly giving and for a share in the ministry destined for the holy ones.”—2 Corinthians 8:4.
In contrast with that, the Royal Bank Letter of November/December 1994 said concerning the weeks leading up to Christmas: “The season may be seen as a state of artificial excitement whipped up by business interests to hustle consumers into buying things they otherwise would not buy.” If the buying is done on credit, whatever satisfaction comes from giving the gifts may well be quickly overshadowed when the bills fall due.
Your Main Concern—The Occasion? Or an Expression of Love?
Do you find that your giving of gifts is done largely on occasions that seem to require it? If so, you may be missing much of the joy that spontaneous giving can bring.
There are many people who are not pleased with the results of gift giving on specified days. A mother who is also a writer acknowledged that greed surfaced in her children as the day neared when gifts were expected. She admitted that her own enjoyment of a lovely gift was marred because she had hoped for something else. Numerous reports say that holidays that feature festivities and the exchanging of gifts are also times when there is much emotional depression and alcohol abuse.
Having observed that the emphasis on gift giving at holiday time sometimes adversely affects children, a professor of psychology quoted in The New York Times recommends: “Consider giving some gifts on other days as a way of reducing the stress.” Do you think that would have a good effect?
Tammy, a 12-year-old in a household that does not celebrate Christmas and birthdays, wrote: “It’s more fun getting a gift when you’re least expecting it.” She said that instead of giving presents just once or twice a year, her parents give such to her and her brother all year round. But there is something that is more important to her than those gifts. As she puts it, “I have a very happy family life.”
The book Secrets of Strong Families frankly states: “Most of us spend time and money several times a year selecting perfect gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays for the people we love. The very best gift of all would take nothing from the bank account. And you wouldn’t have to wrap it. If you believe, like most people, that your life is the most valuable possession you have, then a piece of your life is the most precious gift you have to offer. We give that precious gift in the chunks of our time we give to our loved ones.”
You can let that giving reach beyond your own family. Spontaneous giving to fill an evident need that others have can bring special satisfaction. Jesus Christ urged us to show such loving concern for the poor, the lame, and the blind, adding: “You will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you.”—Luke 14:12-14.
The Rockland Journal-News (U.S.A.) recently reported an example of that sort of giving. When the home of an elderly blind woman collapsed, friends built her a new house. Donations were made by several local businesses, and a monetary grant was made by a local government agency. “Most important, though,” said the newspaper, “the 150 or so people, most of whom attend the Haverstraw Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation, donated time to construct the house.”
The article continued: “At the building site there were piles of materials next to tables filled with food. In two days the workers raised a two-family home, three stories high. . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for their ability to build structures quickly. . . . Such quickness, though, is in contrast with the permanence of their mission: to provide durability in a work of love. Ms. Blakely may not be able to see her new home, but her hands can feel it, and her heart knows the depths to which it has been moved by this selfless action.”
A Year-Round Spirit of Generosity
Those who are truly generous in spirit do not wait for special days. Their lives are not built simply around self. When they receive something good, they enjoy sharing it with others. This does not mean that they are compulsive gift givers. It does not mean that they give to such an extent that their families are deprived. It does not mean that they give without thought as to the effect on the recipient. Yet, they are people who “practice giving,” as Jesus taught his disciples to do.—Luke 6:38.
They are aware of the circumstances of friends and neighbors who are elderly, ill, or otherwise in need of encouragement. Their “gift” may be a trip to the store or help with housework. It may be the chopping of wood or the shoveling of snow. It may be a bowl of prepared food or an hour of time in which to visit and read together. Their own lives may be busy but not too busy to help. They have learned from experience that there truly “is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
The greatest Giver of all, of course, is our Creator, Jehovah God. He “gives to all persons life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:25) In the Bible, he also provides us with insight as to his purpose to put an end to wickedness, sickness, and death, and to make this earth a paradise. (Psalm 37:10, 11; Revelation 21:4, 5) Upon learning about this, those who are generous of spirit do not keep that good news to themselves. One of their greatest pleasures is to share it with others. Theirs truly is a godly spirit of giving. Is that the spirit that you are cultivating?
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Some of the most precious gifts cost no money