Have you ever wondered why people love giving gifts so much? Obviously, we all understand why people love getting gifts, but most of us love to give gifts. We go out of our way to find the perfect Christmas gifts, even if it means waking up at 4 am on the day after Thanksgiving. Gift-giving is even one of the five love languages. For some people, giving a gift is as important as quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch for their relationships. But have we ever slowed down and asked ourselves why we love to give gifts so much?
In a secular worldview, our love for gifts really comes down to some hardwired, evolutionary altruism. Over hundreds of thousands of years, gift-giving became an evolutionary advantage. Our species formed closer bonds through the giving of gifts. These bonds helped the species survive, so now gift-giving is rewarded in our cognitive software.
However, as a Christian, I contend that our love for giving gifts is much deeper and more meaningful than simple altruistic chance. Ultimately, we love to give gifts because we are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27; 5:1), and He is the ultimate gift giver.
God Is Portrayed as the Giver of Good Gifts
God is portrayed as the ultimate gift-giver from the first pages of Scripture. God gifted the first humans not only with the breath of life (Gen. 2:7) but with companionship and a paradise garden in which to live and work (Gen. 2:8, 15, 18-25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, became aware of their nakedness, and were banished from Eden, God gifted them with animal skins to wear (Gen. 3:21). God gifted the first couple with their first son (Gen. 4:1). God’s very nature is as a gift giver, and He gives much better gifts than we do.
Expounding on the power of prayer, Jesus makes an important point about God as a gift giver: “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9-11 ESV).
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Jesus’ illustration is a powerful one. Even evil people know how to give good gifts. Imagine what God—the ultimate gift giver—is willing to give His children when they ask! But, what exactly has God gifted us? I think that the answer to this question can be broken down into two categories: the everyday gifts we take for granted, and the spectacular ones that we cannot forget.
God Gives What Many Take for Granted
Before we discuss any specific things that God has given us, we must first recognize that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. Coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas. 1:17). A certain portion of these good gifts is spiritual, but first we will look at the physical.
There are many who do not believe in God and therefore do not accept that He has given them anything. However, like everyone else, they are contingent beings who did not cause themselves to exist and are totally dependent on God without acknowledging it. Paul, preaching to a group of Gentiles in Lystra who mistook him and Barnabas for Hermes and Zeus, reminded these pagans that, though they did not believe in God, He had demonstrated Himself through the gifts He gave them. Paul told them that God “did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17).
Herein lies the irony. Those who reject God still (somewhat unknowingly) depend on God’s gifts of land to cultivate, food to consume, air to breathe, seasons to experience, and sunrises to watch (Ps. 104:14-28). God gives these good gifts to “the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). The list of things God gives us every day is too long to reproduce here, but the reality of God’s gifts should cause us to pause, give thanks, and praise Him. Or, in the case of some, God should be acknowledged, turned to, and followed. Do not take anything for granted. God “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) and should be thanked without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
God Has Given Us the Ultimate Gift
Though we should rightly thank God for all the physical blessings and sustenance He has provided, there are gifts that rise above them all. Namely His Son, Salvation, and eternal life. These are gifts that God has offered to everybody to be accepted by obedient faith (Jn. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 Jn. 2;1-2).
Around this time of year many are mindful of the gift of God’s Son, and rightfully so. God gave His only Son so that those who would have Faith in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3:16). God’s Son who gave up His riches to become poor so that we, though poor, could become rich is God’s “indescribable gift” to the world (2 Cor. 9:15 NKJV). It’s the greatest gift we could ever ask for and we never asked for it. It’s a gift nobody deserves but is offered to all. Through God’s gift of His Son, we can take hold of the gifts of salvation and eternal life (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 6:23; Heb. 6:4).
No wonder those who are made in the image and likeness of God love to give gifts. God has given us immeasurable blessings out of His good pleasure and love for us. He has provided us with everything necessary for “life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) because He is the ultimate gift-giver. Let us return lives of thanks and humbly accept the gifts He’s given. Like the wise men from the east, we should come to Christ offering Him the best of our treasures (Matt. 2:11). And when you give a gift this holiday season, remember that you’re bearing the image of your Heavenly Father.