The Perils of Gift Giving

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. – 1 Cor. 13:13 

Last spring Kathy and I had a spirited conversation about a graduation gift for our son, Luke. We had agreed on the amount we would spend, and identified three possible items we both thought were excellent choices for the occasion. Our challenge was that none of our three gift options would be available to give him on the day of his commencement.

This is where our gift giving got interesting. My idea was to include a note in his graduation card that explained what we wanted to give, invited him to select one of the three gifts we had identified with an "up to" amount, and promised that we would take care of the rest. Kathy's thought was similar; except she thought the card should also include a check in the "up to" amount we'd agreed upon.

I will be the first to admit that I am a fiscal conservative. I am a careful spender. I will also admit that on first blush, Kathy's suggestion that I wanted to control the gift giving by not including a check gave me pause. Our conversation continued.

As we talked, I struggled to find a way to explain my gift-giving strategy in a way that satisfied Kathy or myself. And yet I was hesitant to just give him the money. Then I noticed something on the wall, something I see everyday—a certificate for a single share of Green Bay Packer stock that we have framed in our family room. It was a Christmas gift from Donna Jensen, Kathy's mom, given to us not long before she died.

Then it hit me. When I notice that stock certificate, I am reminded of Donna and her love for us. It makes me smile … every time.

That is what I wanted for Luke, a gift that wouldn't get forgotten in a bank account, or frittered away on the practical, or the useful, or the easily forgotten. I was hoping for a gift that he would always associate with a very important accomplishment, and as coming from the two people in this world who most love him. If it could accomplish the same effect as Donna had accomplished with her gift giving, I would be satisfied.

We have a generous gift-giving God whose best gift to us was not about money. It was about the revealing of God's love and its constancy. In the midst of the hubbub and the commercial craziness that marks this season, I wish for you moments when the truth of God's gift giving sinks in, and the staying power of that love is something you too notice. Gift giving at its best is always about the love.

Martin Luther's German Bible
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