Source for this image here.
Yesterday I wrote about some of the spiritual aspects of giving gifts - and how in fact, our material possessions really can't bring us true happiness or contentment. However, the act of giving - and of receiving gifts - does still bring us much pleasure, and I'm sure that almost everyone who celebrates Christmas, birthdays or other special days where gifts are exchanged, would agree!
The Bible has plenty to say about giving - much of it focussed on the virtue of giving as a form of denying self and avoiding greed and indulgence, and on how the act of giving benefits the poor. See for example Deuteronomy 16: 17, Proverbs 28: 27, Luke 3: 11 and 2 Corinthians 9: 6, to name but a few references. There are many examples which we can use to address our own attitude to our possessions - and to our desire to share what wealth we have with those around us.
By most Western standards, our family is not wealthy. Many people in England enjoy a standard of living which far exceeds our own, and yet in truth we have never had to want for anything really important - compared with the rest of the world, we are of course millionaires with unimaginable luxuries at our fingertips, such as running water, heat, electricity and plenty of food - more than we truly ever really need for simple nutrition. Isn't it tragic that so many people, even today in the 21st Century, must go without these basic essentials, and yet in countries like England, where there is currently a recession, every day on the news we hear about families in poverty, about how people are having to cut back on things and do without.
Of course, what this all really means is that wealth is relative. We may be "poor" compared with a great many of our near neighbours. But we still have every luxury that a human really needs to live well - and a great deal more, too. The picture you see above is of a Precious Moments figurine that my sweet husband gave to me recently as a gift. Papa Bear loves giving gifts - in fact, he enjoys giving presents far more than he does receiving them, and I can always tell when he has a surprise for me, because his smile is even wider than usual, and his lovely eyes twinkle even more than ever, and he keeps dropping wee "hints" about the present, which can be very teasing sometimes! Yes, we are very privileged. Privileged because we have the choice to be able to give gifts if we want to - material possessions that are treats and luxuries. Things that we don't necessarily need, like water or fuel or clothes, but that we like and enjoy, and which make our homes pretty and our hearts happy. We are very fortunate indeed.
However, our good fortune shouldn't make us complacent. There are so many people in the world for whom even a shelf to put an ornament on would be considered a luxury - for whom keeping animals as pets rather than for food would be thought the height of indulgence. I am not suggesting that we all become like Sister Wendy Beckett and eschew all the trappings of a comfortable life in order that we benefit our poorer neighbours in other parts of the world - although it wouldn't hurt to find out a little more about just how difficult, frightening and impoverished life is for many billions of people on our planet, and perhaps make a donation this Christmas to one of the many Christian charities that exist to help them - maybe even choose to eat a simpler meal one day, and use the money saved to go towards that charity. We can still "count our blessings" whilst enjoying them!
Being given gifts by my sweet husband always makes my heart sing and overflow with love for him - it's his way of demonstrating to me just how much he appreciates what I do for him, and how much he adores and cares for me. He shows me in other ways too, but for him the act of giving me presents brings him as much joy as it does me. And I don't see any reason why we should stop doing this. But I do know that we are very, very lucky indeed, and I shall never take for granted my husband's wonderful generosity - or the incredible blessings that our Father God has bestowed upon us - and does still, every day.