The gifts we give are connected to the fact that the wise men brought gifts to God, or at least that's what every preacher or Sunday school teacher I asked as a child claimed. If we are mimicking the fact that the magi gave gifts to Jesus, why are we giving gifts to each other? Well, I've had people use the "Jesus lives inside of us" to justify the gift giving. So are we giving gifts to God each year when buy presents for our friends and family?
I touched on birthdays in
Gifts For God
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Jesus does say that when we do for His followers ("brethren") that we are doing for Him. Yet, if you look at the examples Jesus gives, none of this suggests the gift giving nature of Christmas. The list of "gifts" Jesus proclaims His saints gave deal with helping someone in need. He was hungry—which only occurs when you don't have food—and we gave Him food; He was thirsty—again implying He didn't have something to drink—and we gave Him something to drink. Most of the gifts given at Christmas are things we want not things we need. How many people use the holiday season to buy food for the homeless people in their community? Pay the electric bill for the needy so they don't freeze (most companies offer this option, you simply check a box and add the amount you want to donate to your bill)? People put themselves in debt trying to impress their spouse or "give their child a good Christmas." That doesn't seem to be what Jesus is suggesting we do...
There are passages in the Bible in which God mentions giving gifts (such as a dowry or when Jacob sends gifts to seek mercy and forgiveness from Esau), but there are also warning about gifts. In Exodus 23:8, we are told not to take gifts that would cloud our judgment when we are in decision making positions. More relevantly, pertaining to the end times (the age we live in), we are told that when the 2 witnesses are killed, people will rejoice and send gifts to each other. When gifts are mentioned positively, they almost always involve us giving gifts directly to God through service or receiving gifts from God.
In general, I see nothing wrong with getting things for people. The issue is motive and tradition. Are you giving a gift to help this person? Are you thinking about God? Are you able to give? Or are you doing this out of habit? Are you giving because you want to receive, because you think they will expect a gift? Are you following pagan and man made traditions? This changes everything. We are not to worry about material things because our rewards are in heaven, which means we shouldn't be asking for things we don't need, let alone a mountain of presents.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
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