Monday, February 15, 2010

Good Gifts

I was taught as a child to be grateful, to politely accept every gift offered to me, and to thank each gift-giver, usually with a hand-written note. Gratitude is an excellent thing for children to learn. As a teacher of three to five year olds I regularly encounter children who haven’t yet learned to be gracious. When presented with a gift at school someone is likely to say:

“I don’t like _______s!” (fill in the blank with whatever is being offered –dinosaurs, dolls, grapes, cookies)

“I don’t want that one. I want a red one.”

“I already have one of those.”

“That’s for girls (boys)!

Granted, these children need to be instructed in the art of gratitude, and I am quick to correct them, but most of them are just being honest, as children that age tend to be. Very simply, they have been presented with something they have no need or desire to have. In other words, they don’t perceive the gift as a good one.

Throughout most of my life I hadn’t given much thought to the subject of “good gifts,” but I vividly recall a time when my husband’s parents wanted to give us a recliner. They told us to go to the store and pick one out, which we did. They had given us an estimated dollar amount, and we found a chair we liked that cost quite a bit more, so my husband approached his parents with the proposition that they could pay the amount they had in mind toward the recliner, and we would pay the remainder. I’ll never forget his mother saying, “No, we want to give you a good gift, and that would only be part of a gift. We will give you the full amount for the chair you chose.”

I remember at the time feeling ashamed that we had been so greedy, but I also felt very loved. Although my in-laws have both been dead for many years, we still own that chair, and it still symbolizes to me what a good gift is. Not only did that gift affect me as a receiver, but it caused me to go to Matthew 7:11 and consider what constitutes a good gift. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

What, I began asking myself, constitutes a good gift? I believe it is characterized by these five things.

A good gift is given with the receiver in mind. Sometimes, when children bring birthday treats to school, they bring what they most like, along with a little party favor. For example, girls will often bring princess cupcakes and bejeweled rings. Even at age four many boys don’t perceive princess rings as good gifts. Understandably, the birthday girl thinks these are wonderful gifts. In all honesty, however, this is an example of a gift being given without much regard for the recipient. Many passages in Scripture remind us that God thinks about us and knows us intimately. His gifts are personal and for our own individual good. “The LORD remembers us and will bless us…” Psalm 115:12a (NIV)

A good gift is complete. My in-laws insisted on giving us the complete gift of the recliner of our choice, and I learned so much more from that one act than the value of a good chair. I learned the value of love, of good parents, and of good gifts. God doesn’t do anything half-way, either. He is all sufficient. “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

A good gift is given with no strings attached. Because we are human, many of us give gifts expecting reciprocation. We often feel indebted to one who has given us a gift, and vice versa. Parents sometimes remind their children of the good gifts they have given as a way of demanding good behavior in return. God’s gifts to us are based solely on His grace. He makes it clear that we could never earn the priceless gift of salvation. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…” Titus 3:5a (NIV)

A good gift costs the giver something, whether it’s money, time, effort, or pride. Have you ever had someone give you a gift and then proceed to tell you how cheap it was? We received a set of China from a family member as a wedding gift. Had it been wrapped in tissue paper in a nice box and tied with a bow I would have at least known that it cost the giver some thoughtfulness, care, and effort. As it was, it was given to us in a cardboard box, with the yard sale price still affixed -$7.00, and the giver of the gift constantly reminded us what a “steal” their purchase was. Is it any wonder I never treasured that gift? God’s most precious gift to us was costly. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” John 3:16 (NIV)

A good gift is timely and timeless. Our oldest son expressed a desire for a remote control airplane when he was young –not a $19.99 model, but the $400 -$500 kind used for sport. It was beyond our means to buy this for him, but knowing his desire, I kept finding various token planes, remote and otherwise, to give him as a way of showing that we hadn’t forgotten or ignored his interest. He was an adult living on his own when I last gave him a small airplane, and he kindly let me know that his desire for a remote control airplane had long since abated. The gift would have meant the world to him as a ten year old, and the impact of receiving it would no doubt have lasted a lifetime, but it meant nothing to him as an adult. He had different interests now, and he also understood the value of money.

God’s gifts are timely. When we are sorrowful, he often gives us reason to rejoice. When we are hurting, he brings comfort. When we need correction or character building he allows us to experience difficult situations to mold us for our ultimate good. And His most precious gift, the gift of salvation, couldn’t have been more timely. “…when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV) It was also timeless. “…God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” I John 5:11b (NIV)

So often, like some of my preschool students, I find myself rejecting God’s good gifts to me, or accepting them half-heartedly:

“But God, I don’t like having to learn patience and dependence on you.”

“I don’t really want tranquility in my life right now. I want excitement!”

“You want to bring a new friend into my life? I already have more friends than I can keep up with.”

“You want to give me a Sunday school class? But I’m not a gifted Bible teacher.”

Like my students I sometimes need to be instructed in the art of gratitude. I need to remember Matthew 7:11. I need to remember that my Father, God, wrote the book on good gifts; that every gift from Him, regardless of how I perceive it, is good. And I need to receive every blessing, every trial, every opportunity as a gift from the One who spared nothing to give me what He knows is the very best.

Today I am participating in Monday Manna, hosted by Joanne at An Open Book.


  1. Sharlyn,

    This is a great post because it does affect how we look at the gifts God gives us each and every day. Some days we look for something much bigger than what He had in mind that day and overlook something small yet valuable in the process.

    Just a reminder to give thanks in all things.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat

  2. Oh, Sharlyn - this is WONDERFUL. I needed this message today - SO glad I finally got over here (sorry it took me a full day!). Thanks for participating, sweetie!

  3. suppose think also something unique and possible to keep of lasting of using the crystal engraved gift. it can always display there as a memorial marks.


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