In just a few short days, many families will gather together in homes, and exchange gifts with one another. These gifts represent the thoughtfulness of the gift giver. They represent the time spent thinking about, and carefully selecting the best gift to give. I always chuckle when I think about Christmas and gift giving. Diana and I always sit down around Thanksgiving and talk about what to give the children and other family members for Christmas. It used to be a lot harder than it is now, and frankly harder than it should have been. Just a quick note, thanks Dave Ramsey for your system of four gifts (something they want, need, wear, and read). Then you go out shopping to get those thoughtfully selected gifts. You buy wrapping paper and scotch tape (lots of tape if you are like my family). You spend hours carefully wrapping the gifts. Ok, maybe not everyone wraps the gifts. Some quickly pick up a gift bag and some tissue paper. Just a piece of advice from someone who has made this mistake before; if you are going to buy a gift bag, make sure the present fits. By now you have spent hours in all of this. And on Christmas morning, or whenever you exchange gifts, in a matter of 15 minutes or less, it looks like a Christmas wrapping paper bomb has gone off in your living room. 10-15 hours of thoughtfulness ends in 15 minutes, that’s why I chuckle. So this is my simple guide to gift giving.
The apostle Paul writes one of the most practical Christian-living letters in all of the New Testament. It is the book of Ephesians. You can divide the book neatly into two sections. The first section covers the first three chapters. In those chapters, Paul lays out sound, biblical theology. Which leads into the second section of chapters four through six. In that section, Paul helps the reader practically apply what he has just written previously. In that second section, Paul covers a lot of important topics such as living the Christian life, letting your previous life die so you and walk in the new life Christ has given you, marriage, and family to name a few. It is in chapter four that we see the simple guide to gift giving for believers.
In Ephesians 4:25-32, Paul writes about living the Christian life. In that section he deals with a very important topic, one that I would say we all (myself included) could learn from and apply. What are Paul’s four gifts the believer should give? The first one is truth (v. 25). Earlier in the same chapter Paul said to “speak the truth in love.” As a Christian, we should love and care about other Christians as well as other people. Therefore, we should love them enough to tell them the truth. The truth may not always be convenient, but it is always right. The second gift to give is to deal with any anger quickly (v. 26). Paul writes, “Be angry but do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your anger” in verse 26. Why? The apostle answers that question in verse 27 when he says, “Do not give place to the devil.” Unresolved anger leads to bitterness which will hurt relationships instead of heal them. The third gift is grace (v. 29-31). We should extend grace to others, because God through Christ has extended grace to us. Words have power. We are told to use our words to build up and encourage, not tear down. The last gift we should give is forgiveness (v. 32). This goes right along with the third gift. Truthfully, all four gifts are connected because when we aren’t lovingly truthful, we tend to get angry and bitter which leads to not extending grace to others in the form of not forgiving them for hurting us. You may be wondering what is the standard for forgiveness we are to us? Are we to forgive only as they ask for it? Are we to forgive only a couple of times, but if they keep doing it, then we don’t have to forgive? Paul in answering that question in verse 32 says this, “And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you” (bold for emphasis). The standard for forgiveness is God. How much as God forgiven you for? How often has God forgiven you?
Maybe you have already got your Christmas shopping done. Maybe the presents are already wrapped, and neatly placed under the tree. Maybe you are still looking for the right gift to give. Wherever you are in the gift-giving process, I want to encourage you to make sure that you give these four gifts to those in your life. You will be amazed at how God changes your heart and your life when you give these gifts to others, that He Himself first gave to you.
On behalf of my family and the Westlake Baptist Church family, Merry Christmas to each of you.