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Giving Gifts Out of Obligation?

For some of us at this time of year, every time we pass it, we “toss a coin into the kettle.” We feel a pang of guilt if we don’t (especially if our carts or arms happen to be overflowing with shopping bags). We “toss our coin” out of a sense of obligation. I wonder–do we do the same with some people on our “gift list?” Whether loved ones or friends, do we sometimes find ourselves giving, only out of a sense of obligation (they always get us something; so we have to get them something too)?

Jesus said, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). This text is definitely in reference to our giving to God; however, doesn’t the same principle apply as we give gifts to one another? Isn’t it better not to give at all than to give grudgingly?

This is radical but . . . would it be the end of the world if we stopped giving gifts out of obligation? What if we asked God who He wants on our “Gift List”? Maybe we would find that He simply wants to change our attitude, so that we can begin to give willingly, with a cheerful heart. Or maybe we would find that certain people do not need to be on our “gift list.” Or perhaps we would find that God wants to write a brand new name on our list, someone who needs us to “be Jesus” to them. Rather than doing the same thing, giving gifts merely because it’s the thing to do–ask God what He thinks. The result might be radically remarkable!

–Beth Jones