“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
As he approached, for a moment the thought crossed my mind that maybe he would ask; indeed, he did.
“Hey man, could I borrow some spare change? I really need something to eat.”
My response: “Nah, sorry man, I don’t have any spare change on me.”
“Okay, thanks,” he said as he walked away.
I had a five dollar bill in my pocket. Immediately, I felt that familiar wave of shame and regret wash over me. I could have turned around, ran after him, and given him money. I didn’t. The irony is that this happened tonight as I was walking the streets to a cafe to write this — to write about being a gift to those around us. It reveals the unfortunate reality of my selfish human nature at war with my desire to do and be good.
Inside the deepest, truest parts of ourselves, I think many (if not most of us) long to change the world, to make a difference, to do good, to be good, to love, to sacrifice and serve, and to give of ourselves. There’s a burning desire to “save the world.”
But I’ve found that who we are in the moments when it’s hard to sacrifice and serve is who we discover ourselves truly to be. Our longing to give to the world must start with laying a foundation. It’s something we build with those nearest to us, with who are around us in the moments of our everyday lives.
Maybe you’re like me and gift giving isn’t your strength. Let’s say you are and you were able to give the best of gifts this holiday season, they’ll be nothing compared to the everyday gift of our lives — the perfect gift. This is simply the gift of our lives, lived sacrificially, for others in the world, albeit just the “small” world around us. The greatest gift we can give is this: to lay down our lives for one another. We don’t have to die to do this; we can lay them down in the way we live.
So as we give the gifts that are a tangible manifestation of our love for one another, it’s obvious that we should try to first and foremost be a gift for the benefit and blessing of others.
But the crazy thing is that this giving has to start with receiving first. Before we can be a gift to others, we must first receive the greatest Gift ever given to mankind. This Perfect Gift came in the form of Jesus, and you were worth the obedient death of Jesus. If we remember this, we will remember that others are worth our lives as well — just as they are worth the blood of Jesus.
The Christmas season is the time to give money to the poor. You can donate halfway across the world, or you can help out down the street. It gets harder, but learn to show forgiveness to your enemies, those who have wronged you.
Most of all, give the first of your love to Jesus. He was the Perfect Gift in flesh and blood, but also in skin and bone. We can be this perfect gift to others.
This holiday season, remember what you’ve received and Who you have received, and go give yourself away to others (wrapping paper, tape and bow optional). The most important gift you could ever receive is the sacrifice offered through the death of Jesus Christ; the most important gift you could ever give is that of your life, lived unto others — to give from that which you have received.
Next time, I hope I can give that five dollar bill without hesitation. This holiday season, I hope to give better gifts to my friends and family than before. Above all else, I hope to be the perfect gift given to those around me every day.