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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Giver and His Gifts

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17

Of all the holidays celebrated Christmas generates the greatest economic boost. (Halloween is second.) It seems each year stores push for an earlier beginning for this holiday. We used to see Christmas decorations go up around Thanksgiving. Now it is not uncommon to see Christmas decorations go up around Halloween. The day after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday” because some companies get out of the red and into the black in their accounting records solely based on sales from this day. Some companies succeed or fail based on the income generated in connection with Christmas. It’s a big money maker. Merry Christmas!

Gifts are the topic of conversation at Christmas. What did you get? How many did you get? How much is it worth? How much did it cost? How big is it? What feature does it have? Can it do this? Can it do that? Does it fit? Can I exchange it? Can I return it? There’s a whirl of questions and thoughts and they focus on the gifts. We have been deceived and distracted from what Christmas is truly all about.

Christmas is about giving. And it is about a very special Gift. But we have drifted far from the root meaning of Christmas. We have gotten far away from the Giver and His original gift of Jesus the Christ at Christmas. We have put first things last and last things first. We have cluttered and covered what is eternally important with the wrappings of material things that will not last.

That’s sad. It shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t have to happen. In fact, why don’t we seek the LORD to help us get back on track? Lord help us get back to the proper and more valuable eternal perspective of You our Giver and Your gifts? This Christmas let’s challenge ourselves to reconnect with the Giver and His gifts. Let’s get back to that original Gift.

A gift is something given by one person to another without compensation. It is something freely given, freely received, not earned. At least that is what a gift is supposed to be. On the human horizontal plane gifts are often instruments of manipulation. We soften people up with a gift. That is not entirely unscriptural (cf. Prov. 18:16). But I think the sinful nature has taken this to an entirely lower level. We have perverted gift giving.

I want to state a bold and too often forgotten Biblical truth. Every good gift is from God. Look around you,  think about it, every good gift is from God. Every good thing we receive that we don’t deserve or that requires no compensation, is from God. The Bible states, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (James 1:16-18). Those are words that should fill us with thanks to God.

James says, “do not be deceived.” These words imply there is some sort of deception about the Giver and His gifts (v. 16). He writes to people he cares about. We see that in the words, “my beloved brethren.” He cares that those he writes to know the truth. He doesn’t want his beloved readers to be deceived about gifts and the true Giver, God. What might the nature of the deception he is concerned about be? It could be a deception that disregards or neglects to pay homage or thanks to God as the Source of all good gifts. It might be a deflecting deception that “every good and perfect gift” comes from a source other than God. Or it may be the focusing on gifts to the neglect of the Giver. The aim of the enemy is always to deceive us and deflect glory from God.

When we focus so much on gifts that we forget about the Giver, we are deceived. Distraction from God is the work of deception. Anything that distracts us from the true meaning of Christmas, from the Giver, is a part of deception. Santa Claus, therefore, would be considered a deception because the story distracts us from God the Giver and Jesus the Gift. You may see that as a bit Scrooge-like, but it is true. Think about it.  

The word “every” (Greek pas) is an adjective that means every, all, any. The word, “good” (Greek agathŏs) is an adjective that means good,  upright, kind, benevolent, useful, acceptable, wholesome, beneficial, goods, good deeds. The word  “perfect” (Greek teleios) is an adjective that means complete, perfect, whole, full grown, mature, or adult. That which is perfect is made up of good that comes to full bloom or full maturity. Good gifts are things on the horizontal plane of life that point us to the vertical realm of God. They become perfect when we see them from an eternal perspective.

A “gift of God” is an act of His grace. James is inspired to write that good and perfect gifts are, “from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” God the Father  is described as the “Father of lights.” He is the Creator of the universe with its entire starry host. As Father of lights He is of a holy pure character. There is no darkness in Him at all (1 John 1:5).

That “there is no variation or shadow of turning” with Him refers to His unchanging stable dependable nature. The moon for instance is not always full; its reflective light is blocked by the earth as it orbits. But God is never blocked out, diluted or diminished in any way. His truth and faithfulness are steady and sure. He isn’t wishy-washy or capricious. He is dependable and true. And He bestows every good and perfect gift upon us all.

Verse 18 states, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” This points us to His great eternal gift of salvation. He brought us forth by His will and word of truth. He planted His word in us and caused it to grow in us by prevenient grace and ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.   

Some gifts are unappreciated. When we think of gifts and what are in particular good gifts, we are frequently further deceived. We don’t always appreciate some of the things God allows into our lives. We don’t see certain things as gifts from God or good. The context of James 1:16-18 sheds light on the things God allows into our lives. What are some gifts God allows into our lives that we often do not appreciate?

First, trials are unappreciated gifts from God (James 1:1-8). Trials are allowed by God into our lives to build faith through patience and then character so that we will reach a point of perfection or spiritual maturity (1:1-4). Trials move us to pray (1:5a) and teach us how to add faith to our prayers (1:5b-8). There is a precious fellowship of suffering that God gives (Phil. 3:9-11).

Second, lowliness and loss are unappreciated gifts from God (1:9-11). God allows us to be in need so that it will draw us to Him for provision. When we lose the temporal it demonstrates that we ought to invest in eternal things that cannot be stolen or destroyed (Mat. 6).

Third, temptations are unappreciated gifts from God (1:12-15, 19-21). While temptations are not from God but from our sinful nature (1:12-15), God allows them so that we are put in a situation where we have opportunity to choose to follow Him. Without the potential for defeat there could be no victory (1:19-21). Without the possibility to disobey, we wouldn’t be able to know what true love is (John 14:21).

Fourth, God’s word is an unappreciated gift from God (1:22-25). We don’t realize how great a gift God’s word is. We can choose to listen to it being taught or read it with no effect on us. But only when we apply it to our lives do we discover its full value. Too often we do not appreciate God’s gift of the Bible.

Fifth, hardship in others is an unappreciated gift from God (1:26-27). Religion is a human attempt to reach God. It is ineffective in changing people. True religion is to help those in need such as widows and orphans; those who are unable to help themselves. But it is helping not to attain favor with God, but because we already have favor with God through faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t help others to attain righteousness. We help others to show our appreciation to God for the righteousness He provides in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). We serve God by serving others. We love God supremely and so love others sacrificially. Such situations are unappreciated opportunities to be God’s ambassadors. As we help others bear burdens we fulfill one of the most important aspects of what it means to be a Christian (Gal. 6:2).

So the challenge has been made. Will you put the Giver and His gifts in their proper place this Christmas? Will you exalt the God the Giver for His most precious gift of salvation through Jesus the Christ?


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