Is God into obligated giving?

I’ve read many articles that question the practice of obligated giving at Christmas. It creates so many problems, like having to give a gift to someone who gave a gift to you, or not receiving a gift of equal value, or receiving a gift you don’t like and having to say thank you, or knowing the gift you’ve received was probably a last minute purchase with little real thought behind it, and more than likely it was bought on sale.

The practice of obligated giving still continues, however, creating the usual mayhem of packed shopping centres, distracted minds while driving, the stress of finding gifts for people who have everything, and the far more serious problem of losing the understanding of what a “gift” actually is.

A gift by definition is something given willingly without anything expected in return. Christmas, however, has transformed that into something given by force of tradition and obligation with full expectation of something in return. In other words, you give with an agenda, to meet a requirement, and to get something back.

No wonder so many people view God that way, that if we meet his requirements we get something back from him too. So rather than viewing God as the great giver of all spiritual gifts that he lavishes on us purely because he loves us, God has to give us what we want because we give him what he wants from us. In other words, we obligate him to give because we fulfill his conditions. We make him into the Christmas god who gives because he has to.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4-5, however, that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world…to be adopted as his sons…in accordance with his pleasure and will.” God’s great gift to all us humans was to make us his children, which he does purely out of love and pleasure on his part, and long before any of us existed. So it wasn’t because we gave something to him that he felt obligated to give something back. This wasn’t an exchange of gifts, nor was there any obligation, on his part or ours, to give.

And Christmas is supposed to be celebrating that, that everything God accomplished for us through his Son “showed his love among us” (1 John 4:9). He showed us what real giving is like, that it’s all done willingly with no strings attached, no expectations of a gift in return, and no requirements to fulfill. His kind of giving, in other words, is the total opposite to the giving we’ve created at Christmas.

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