“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:30).
Here Paul quotes Jesus, when exhorting the elders of the church in Ephesus to remember we “must support the weak.” We do well to bring these words to mind in this season of giving and getting, especially in the midst of a generation that is more accustomed to the latter than the former. Most children today think of Christmas as a time to receive, as we lavish loads of gifts, big and small, upon them. That’s understandable, to a degree, as we love bestowing presents and goodies on our children, our families and friends. Hopefully, we do so because we understand what Jesus meant—that it is more blessed to be on the giving end of things. But are we working to cultivate that spirit in our children, especially when it comes to giving to others in need?
The holidays are a good time to teach our children to do something we should be doing all the time, but maybe especially important at this time of year. While kids may be preoccupied with what they are going to get, the Christmas season gives us the opportunity to prompt them to look outward, to look around and think of those who may need us to give to them in some way. Is there someone going through a difficult time—financially, emotionally, spiritually—who could use our encouragement, a call, a visit, an invitation to come into our home?
Is there someone who lives alone without family nearby, in whom we could take a special interest? Is there a family or some children we could “adopt” for Christmas, to provide them with a few presents or maybe some financial assistance? Perhaps it would be a good idea to gather the children around the family altar—whether the kitchen table or living room couch—and discuss ways we could help others. Do they know of someone to whom we might demonstrate the love of Christ in some way by taking an interest in his life or meeting a need he may have? Could we pray as a family for God to open a door of opportunity into someone’s life, or to open our eyes to see someone the Lord might be able to use us to touch in some way? Shouldn’t we be willing to sacrifice a little time, or money, or both, to reach out to others who may be less fortunate?
Many of us in the church are good about serving and giving to others at this time and throughout the year. Such concern and compassion is, after all, an integral part of being a follower of Christ (Mat. 25:34-40; James 1:27). But perhaps dads and moms—especially us fathers, as the heads of our homes—could do a better job in leading our families to do something special for others at this time of year, to demonstrate this spirit of giving to our children and help inculcate it into their hearts. By helping someone else together as a family, we help make thoughtfulness and service a way of life to our kids. Then, when they’re grown, they won’t have to be asked or browbeaten into serving; it will come naturally to them as servants of Christ. Let’s make giving to someone in need one of our family holiday traditions. We have conditioned them to receive at the holidays; let’s condition them to give as well.
When Paul used the generosity of the Macedonian saints to motivate the church in Corinth to take part in a collection for the needy, he said they “first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5). This year, our kids may have visions of the iPhones dancing in their heads. But with their focus on what they want to get for Christmas, let’s help them not to forget what they can give to others—not just money or presents, but themselves. Their concern. Their time. Their love. Their service. That may be the best gift we could ever give our them.