Questions From Readers
In many parts of the world, it is customary to give wedding gifts. What Scriptural principles should we consider when giving or receiving such gifts?
The Bible approves of gift-giving when it is done with the right motive and on the right occasion. In the matter of giving, the Bible encourages true Christians to imitate their generous Provider, Jehovah. (James 1:17) The apostle Paul urged fellow Christians: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Thus, Christians are encouraged to be generous.—Hebrews 13:16; Luke 6:38.
What about using a gift registry, a common practice in the United States? In England, it is referred to as a wedding list. Typically, a couple with an upcoming wedding registers at a store by reviewing the store’s merchandise and making a list of items that they would like to receive as gifts. Relatives and friends of the couple are directed to the appropriate store to purchase an item from the couple’s registry list. From a practical standpoint, a gift-registry list frees the giver from spending hours browsing for a gift, while the recipients are spared the inconvenience of returning unwanted gifts to the store.
Whether a couple who are getting married wish to use a gift registry is a matter for personal decision. However, a Christian would want to be careful to avoid any practices that might violate Bible principles. For instance, what if an engaged couple were to make up a list containing very costly items? In such a case, those on a limited budget may be unable to provide a gift, or they may feel that it would be better to decline the invitation to attend the wedding so as to spare themselves the embarrassment of bringing an inexpensive present. One Christian woman wrote: “It is becoming overwhelming. I have tried to be generous, but lately all the happiness that I used to find in giving is lost.” How sad it would be if a wedding were to become a source of discouragement!
Certainly, givers should not be made to feel that in order for their gift to be acceptable, it must be purchased at a certain store or fall within a particular price range. After all, Jesus Christ indicated that what is most precious in God’s sight is a giver’s heart attitude, not the material value of the gift. (Luke 21:1-4) Similarly, regarding gifts of mercy to the needy, the apostle Paul wrote: “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 9:7.
Biblically speaking, there is nothing wrong with identifying oneself as the giver of a gift, perhaps by including a note with a present. However, in some places, it is the custom to identify the giver to all those who are present. This custom can lead to problems. Those giving a present may want to remain anonymous in order to avoid attracting undue attention to themselves. Such individuals act according to the principle found at Matthew 6:3, where Jesus states: “But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing.” Others may feel that gift-giving is a personal matter that should remain private between the giver and the recipient. Moreover, identifying the givers could lead to comparisons of gifts, “stirring up competition.” (Galatians 5:26) Christians surely would want to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by publicly announcing the names of the givers.—1 Peter 3:8.
Yes, by acting in harmony with principles found in God’s Word, gift-giving will remain a source of happiness.—Acts 20:35.