“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
“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!” Matthew 7:11
Gifts are on my mind these days. For one, because my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow! Secondly, because the frenziest gift-giving season of all — you know the one — is right around the corner. And thirdly, because I’ve been asking for and waiting on a specific gift from God that’s just not coming. Not now, maybe not ever. Where’s my gift, God?
I’ve gained some insight over the years about gift-giving from being a husband and especially a father of three kids. If only I would consistently apply this same insight to my relationship with my Heavenly Father!
We are really good at asking for what we WANT — not so much what we need. Just ask the wife who unwraps a new toaster oven on her anniversary or the young college grad, living on his own for the first time, who gets a pack of socks from his mom on Christmas Day. The current toaster oven might be completely shot or smoking up the house and the young man’s toes might be sticking out inside of his shoes, but they absolutely don’t WANT those things as GIFTS!
We need to be careful about unintentionally applying worldly perspectives to spiritual implications. What if we are completely misunderstanding what the Bible means by the word “gift”?
The gifts that God gives are described in the Bible as “good and perfect”. That’s a pretty high mark. We usually see a good gift as one that makes a person happy. A perfect gift often results in a response like, “it’s just what I wanted!” And yet, does that really make the gift perfect FOR the person or just perfect TO the person?
God is always looking out FOR us and He is the perfect Gift Giver. This means that He knows exactly what He’s doing and what He’s giving at all times. God gives “good and perfect” gifts to those who ask. But thankfully, and more importantly, He gives these gifts even to those who don’t. You don’t believe me? Just count the blessings in your life — the ones you take for granted every day — the ones you didn’t really ask for but are surrounded by: Your family. Your friends. Your home. Your car. Your job. Your clothes. Your groceries. Your health. Your mind. Your pulse. You might not have all of these all the time (you better have the pulse!) and likely not in the abundance you would prefer, but do you have enough? And what if lacking even some of these things at times results in your depending on God more, turning to Him, finding Him, knowing and loving Him more…would that be worth it to you? It’s worth it to Him. You are worth more than all you could ever say or do to Him and for Him.
Have any of you ever sat on Christmas morning and watched your children opening up one gift after another (that they are very happy to receive but will likely be neglecting in about a week’s time) and even as the wrapping paper is piling up around you, you’re already silently thinking: The best gift would have been to give them nothing and teach them to appreciate the things they already have! Heartless, I know. I’m kind of joking here, but that’s because I would never buck the trend of Christmas tradition and be THAT kind of a dad. But God does not work on our terms and He is not moved by our traditions, cultural norms, commercial incentives, or global peer pressure. He is God. He is Holy. He is Good and He will do what He knows is best for us, even if it confuses, frustrates, and at times breaks our hearts to teach us something far more important and valuable.
An important question for us to ask is WHAT IS A GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT? I would say it’s a gift that elevates God in our lives, brings us closer to Him, and blesses those around us. That is what a good and perfect gift is and does. How often do we ask for this kind of gift?
We think we KNOW what we’re doing down here, we think we understand what we need, and we even imagine that the things we want are way more valuable than they actually are…so we ask God for all these things and He withholds them or gives us something else and we get frustrated, impatient, and ask “Why God? Don’t you care about me?” and all the while, we don’t see the REALLY good gifts that He’s actually giving us all along.
And isn’t it exactly like this with our children? Our children are asking for things and we’re constantly trying to teach/give them something much more important and deeper.
Child: I want a new video game, dad.
Me: How about you do chores and earn the money to buy your own video game and in the meantime, you learn responsibility, patience, and gain some good work ethic?
Do you think my son really cares about all that? Nope. But I do because I know that is what he really needs and such traits will serve him well long after that video game is out of his mind.
And even when we let our kids do something they WANT to do — like take Taekwondo lessons — it’s usually not for the same reasons THEY have in mind. While they are excited about one day breaking a board, getting a black belt, and defending someone who is being bullied — what I know they are also receiving (and what the instructor is really focused on teaching/giving) is respect, obedience, and self-discipline.
My children rarely — if ever — see and understand the big picture behind what I’m trying to teach and give them. They just don’t have the perspective to take it all in. And when it comes to my relationship with an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God — oftentimes, neither do I.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
I think God is trying to remind ME of something today. I may be a husband and father, but I’m also His child. Am I looking to Him, asking from Him, and expecting from Him what is good and perfect? It might not be specifically what I want, but it will always be exactly what I really need.