Everyone I know enjoys receiving gifts. They enjoy obtaining something that is a token of the care, love, and thoughtfulness of another individual. The term “gift” is defined by Webster as, “A present; the act of giving or conferring; the right or power of giving or conferring; an offering or oblation.” When one considers the offerings they give to others, there are many thoughts that can enter into the selected gift: For what occasion is it? What relationship do I have with the individual? What am I trying to accomplish with this gift? And on the list could go.
Unfortunately, many people do not spend nearly the amount of time considering the gifts placed before God as they do the gifts for their friends and loved ones. There are a number of gifts to God described in the Scriptures. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus speaks of the gifts of sacrifice being brought to the altar for offering before God. Luke describes the act of monetary giving as a gift to God in Luke 21:1-4. Therefore, the sacrifices and monetary offerings before God under the Old Law were considered gifts. Rolling that principle over into the New Covenant, Hebrews 13:15-16 records: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Our worship and service to God is a sacrifice, a gift, offered before him. As such, the question needs to be asked: What kind of gifts do we give to God?
Consider your own desires pertaining to gifts. When you receive a gift you want one that is based upon your likes and interests, not someone else’s; but is not that often the way mankind approaches their gifts of worship and service to God? Man has instituted so many forms of “worship” that there is seemingly nothing that he considers inappropriate before God. This is not because God has stated that he will accept whatever we dish him, but because we have decided that God likes whatever we do. Therefore, we offer gifts that bring us pleasure and make us feel good, even though those gifts are directly against the wishes of God and do nothing but show disrespect and irreverence toward his commands.
God commanded the songs of the heart (Eph. 5:19), the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13:15), and the reciprocal praise and teaching for all participating in the singing (Col. 3:16). Instead we have turned our gifts of singing into concerts for our own enjoyment. We have replaced songs of praise and honor to God for songs of personal excitement and self-congratulations; we have replaced the fruit of the lips with the noise of instruments; and changed reciprocal praise to conditional involvement through choirs, choruses, and solos. Such gifts are not selfless, but selfish; they are not intended for God’s glory, but our own. Such gifts were they given to our friends or family would leave them with a very low opinion of our regard for them, but God is supposed to give a smile, ignore it, and just be thankful that we are happy. Individuals who take this approach to their worship and service before God: whether it be in the actions of worship, the doctrines taught from the pulpit, or the inclusion of unauthorized leadership before the people, will find a very different response by God than what they have anticipated (See Lev. 10:1-2).
Then there are those whose gifts are always their own leftovers. They never buy anything new for someone, they simply recycle the things they don’t want and hope it will be sufficient. These gifts never show true love and interest in another, only the motivation to fulfill the desire of the giver to clean out some of the excess they currently hold; as well as the desire to not spend any more than absolutely necessary on another.
Such an approach is often used with man’s gifts to God. He does not present God with the fresh first-fruits of his labor, but instead presents the leftovers for which he no longer has use or interest. These gifts are often registered in two areas of man’s life: money and time. When our giving to God is of the leftovers, it will never be a gift worth giving. God has always expected the first-fruits of our labors, the recognition of him before us (Exo.23:19; Neh. 10:34-35; Pro. 3:9). Do our gifts bear out that mindset, or do they state that we are willing to give to God only whatever is left after all of the important tasks is accomplished? How many people will rearrange their schedules to help out a friend, or place themselves in debt to buy a gift for someone they love, but will never show anywhere near the same love and regard for God? Such an attitude toward one’s gifts for God is negligent and disingenuous. If one truly loves God he will not give him the leftovers, but the first-fruits.
The gifts we give to God are important; they say far more than our words how we feel about God and how important he is to us in our lives. If man is to offer gifts God will accept, love, and cherish, they must be gifts based upon God’s desires and commands, not selfish whims; and they must be gifts that show man’s regard for him as the greatest influence in life; not bestowing gifts to God like one would a pig: delivering the slop of leftovers that are not useful for anything else.
As you consider your life and actions: what kind of gifts do you give?