8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
As Christmas approaches, we are reminded of a few things in our lives. We are reminded that Christ was born into this world to redeem us to the Father. Carols are sung to remind us of the season. Sermons are preached about the greatest gift that was ever given to mankind. The air is charged with excitement and awe as Christmas approaches. Families get together to catch up on the year, or to celebrate the winding down of yet another year.
Another thing we are reminded of, is “Johnny wants this for Christmas”, “Suzy wants that for Christmas”, and “Don’t forget to pay that credit card down so that we can buy that for mom and dad.” We are reminded that there are gifts to buy and debt will start to rise. There are even songs of the season that include the joys of gift buying or the spending we do during the holidays, and some humorous songs sing of the financial repercussion from this joyous time of year.
In our modern time, stores set up Christmas displays way too early to start pushing the holidays on us. Radio stations begin playing carols in late October or early November to get us into the spirit early. It’s sad how TV ads or radio commercials remind us that now is the time to buy that perfect gift for a loved one, and that gift should be their product.
In this month’s finances article, I’d like to address gift giving. I’d like for us to discover that sometimes as human beings we tend to miss the gifts that God gives us, or we simply take them for granted.
The modern-day Christian has learned to label almost everything in their religious world. For example, we have labels for biblical finances. We use words like blessings, tithes, offering, sow, reap, harvest and gifts. Each label is put into a category of function; each thing has a purpose and is done a certain way, and we are taught that we are to receive the blessings by a certain time or from a certain place. Let’s look at an example to clarify what I mean by this.
Most of us have heard that if you sow money, you reap money. I’ve even heard that if you sow money— let’s say, specifically US currency, then you reap US currency. It’s said over and over that if you sow an apple seed, you reap an apple tree. Why would you expect a peach tree from an apple seed? The logic makes sense, from a farming perspective. Who would argue against that logic when it comes to agriculture. But money is not an agricultural product, it is not a seed, even though you’ve heard it many times before that you should sow your seed, referring to money.
The concepts in the Bible are very practical. Things are done with common sense and it is highly valued as spiritual wisdom. In the previous article, I mentioned that tithing in the Old Testament was practical. There was a practical reason for the tithe to go to the priests. Here is the oversimplified reason. The Israelites were ruled by an unseen God. That made Israel a theocracy. In a theocracy, there has to be a visible person or people to stand between God and the people. Israel’s visible people were called priests. Their sole purpose was to be a representative of the unseen God to the people, therefore they didn’t have time to farm land— sow and reap. They couldn’t fend for themselves. So, God put a plan in place to take care of the priests— tithing. Therefore, the tithes went to the priests. They ate the share allotted to them as priests, then sacrificed the rest for the sake of the people.
Those who were farmers of animals or crops were the ones that were doing the sowing and reaping. God blessed them with increased crop or animals when they sowed or tithed. If you do a Bible study on money, you will find that money was mentioned on a few occasions – one passage mentions converting the tithe into money so that you could carry it with you when traveling long distances. Upon arriving at your destination, you would convert it back to animals or crop and offer your tithe. (For a detailed study on money please see my book on biblical finances).
The modern-day Christian, for some reason, believes that when you sow money it should always come back as money. However, money in the modern day world can literarily translate into any material goods or services. I’ll use an example from someone I know personally.
A good friend of mine sows his own personal finances and time into other people’s life and ministry, he also sows into the growth of the body of Christ. The personal finances may come in the form of always having enough to buy gas for his car, so he can travel to help these ministries. It also comes in the form of being able to purchase and develop a website for them. It also includes buying them coffee or lunch to talk to them about their ministry, so that he can share it with the body of Christ. It also means that he has given hours, or even days, to these ministries to promote them or help them get to another level in their ministry.
Although money may not be given to my friend’s ministry in a tangible way, he sows nevertheless. In the modern day mindset one would suggest that he will get a harvest of time and money. But this is not the case. Recently, his harvest came in the form of getting a new home as a gift from people who were in a position to bless him. He doesn’t have to pay a mortgage— he has a house he can live in free and clear of debt, while many of us must pay a mortgage or pay rent to live in a house.
My friend’s harvest came to him in a way that was completely unexpected and contrary to the expected norm. From a monetary vantage point, he can live free from dolling out $850 - 1,700 every single month. You do the math for how much he doesn’t have to pay in a single year. That’s a huge harvest in modern day terms. Personally, I’d like to hear the testimony of those people who gave the house to him. I’m sure they will have a great harvest story to share.
We don’t live in an age where the harvest is expected to come in the form of cattle or crop. It can come in any possible way because money can purchase just about any form of goods or services. Perhaps we need to rethink how God can bring a harvest to us. Perhaps His gift will not always be in the form we expect it to come. When the Christ child was born into this world, He was God’s gift to humanity, and the gift came in a form that most people never expected.
It’s time to break out of the mold of expecting a harvest in only one way, the way we’ve always been taught. Be ready to receive your gift from God, in any form that it may come. Learn to recognize your harvest. Be prepared to receive it in any form, so that you don’t mistakenly refuse God’s gifts to you.
Merry Christmas. May this season bring an abundance of peace and joy to you and yours.