By Ashley McIlwain
One of the greatest parts of Christmas is the generosity that seems to so prevalently accompany it. People are more aware of the needs of others, and they are more willing and receptive to meeting those needs. It’s a wonderful part of this time of year, which got me to thinking a bit more about giving and what lies at the heart of it.
When we think of giving, the first thing that usually comes to mind is presents. Of course, presents with bows and pretty wrapping paper are fun and nice to both give and receive, but giving goes much deeper than that. At the core of giving is generosity.
Generosity is defined as:
Generosity is realizing that you are so blessed that you can’t help but allow it to overflow into the lives of those around you and in need. It’s recognizing that the only thing better than having abundance is giving abundantly. We are blessed to be a blessing, and that’s what giving is about.
In Acts 20:35, Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And if you’ve ever given, whether it be money, time, energy, talents, or love, you know this is true. That smile that appears on someone’s face when you’ve met a need and blessed them somehow fills you with joy and thanksgiving in a way that “stuff” can’t. It keeps things in perspective and makes you more grateful for the blessings in your own life.
Let’s get a little more personal with this, and look at how this applies to marriage. If you’re at all like me, there are times where I find I get caught up in what my husband can and is doing for me. How are my needs being met? When was the last time he got me flowers? What am I getting out of this? Why can’t he just do this or that? Me, me, me. That selfish nature of mine takes over, and I realize that a lot of times I am focused on myself instead of my husband and our marriage.
Usually just about the time I am headed in a self-centered downward spiral, the thought pops into my head, “Well, what have you done recently for your husband?” It’s like a punch in the gut that leaves me breathless and whirling. I know that it’s a question I need to ask myself, and it’s the Holy Spirit who ever so gently gets me back on track when I’ve lost my way. Like a chastised kid, I lower my head knowingly, say a prayer of repentance and ask for God’s supernatural ability to love, give, and care the way that He does for me each and every day.
Why is it that we naturally want to put our hand out to receive rather than give? I constantly have to keep myself in check and remind myself that those moments where I am feeling the least fulfilled or satisfied by my husband’s efforts, are usually the times I am giving the least of myself to him. And I want to be marked by generosity not selfishness in every area and relationship in my life.
What if we all were marked by generosity? What if we all gave to our spouse more than we demanded or expected of them? What if we were givers not takers? What kind of marriage would we have? What kind of world would we live in?
Let’s take it a step further. It’s not just about giving, but it’s about how we give. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of someone who gave begrudgingly, you understand what I’m talking about. For example, your wife asks you to take the trash out, and you grumble and complain the whole time. Rather than blessing your wife with the gift of a helping hand, you made her pay dearly for it, and I’m sure she would have rather you just not done it at all. A grumpy gift is no gift at all. The attitude behind your gifting is more important than what you give!
The Bible talks about this a lot:
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. – Deuteronomy 15:10
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. – Luke 6:38
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
It’s clear that God wants and desires for us to cheerfully, generously, and consistently give to others. I believe it’s because not only will He bless us, but He knows that the process itself will be a blessing to us. There is incomparable joy to meeting the needs of others. That goes for your husband or wife, friend or foe, family member or stranger. The actual gift is the act of giving.