|It's My Party
March 16, 2001
"Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church." (1 Corinthians 14:12, NIV)
We had a third birthday party for our son, Josh, last week. We decorated with streamers, balloons, and banners. We had cake and ice cream. And, of course, friends and family came. With gifts.
Lots of gifts.
And though he's only three, Josh knows that gifts are for opening. He tore into them. Paper flew. Empty boxes soon littered the ground. One of Josh's friends knows that gifts are for opening, too. He helped, when Josh would let him. When he wasn't helping, he stayed close, watching. And he soon figured out that while Josh was distracted with opening another gift, he could play with whatever Josh had previously opened. Seemed like a good plan, too. Until Josh noticed.
Now picture the scene. Wrapping paper covers the floor. Brand-new toys lay all around a living room that already was beginning to look like FAO Schwarz anyway. Josh, the preacher's kid, stands in the middle of the room clutching a half-opened gift. His little friend is happily playing with one of the brand-new toys Josh has just opened, then dropped to have his hands free to open another gift. Josh sees what he's doing. His face clouds up. He walks purposefully up to his friend, grabs the toy, and starts pulling.
"This is MY birthday party!!" Josh shouts at the top of his lungs.
That's my boy.
Well, he'll learn. Self-centeredness at 3 is to be expected, I suppose. If he's still behaving that way at 13, we may have a problem. And by the time he's 33, self-centeredness should be ancient history.
Well, it should be. But will it? Come to think of it, I don't know. Josh's daddy will be 33 pretty soon, and I think he has a long way to go toward overcoming selfishness. All the time, I make the same mistake Josh made. I forget that the things I have are gifts, and that I have to be willing to share them. I resent the demands people make on me, just as my son resented the demands his friend made. I'm not as childish, of course. I just sulk, or avoid situations in which I'll have to give, or think of reasons why I shouldn't have to. But down deep, I'm often screaming the same words Josh screamed: "This is MY party! It's MY needs that matter. MY rights are sacred. I've worked hard for my happiness, my comfort, my security, my health, my relationship with God. And I don't have to share what I have with anyone."
But, of course, God gives us gifts with the attached condition that we are to share. Received comfort? Good. Someone else needs comforting now. Have you been blessed with prosperity? Someone near you is being plagued with poverty. Have you been given the gift of education? Well, you know, there are people who can't read. Have lots of friends? Too many people live out their days all alone. Have you been forgiven? Someone close to you needs forgiving. Have you tasted God's grace? Most people know only the bitterness of guilt, the sourness of death.
The easiest thing in the world is to take that with which God has blessed you and turn it inward. The easiest thing in the world is to hoard the gifts you've received, to accept the lie that whatever God is doing in your life is all about you. It isn't. This isn't just your party. God wants to welcome, heal, bless, and ultimately save every human being on this planet. We're all guests of honor, and none of us are allowed to say that the gifts we've unwrapped are for our enjoyment alone.
"Try to excel in gifts that build up the church," says Paul, reminding us to share what we've unwrapped. The gifts God has given us can overflow the shallow depths of our own souls and flood the lives of people around us with his goodness and glory. "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant," God said to his people millennia ago. "I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 49:6, NIV)
God hasn't given you gifts so that you can greedily clutch them in your arms. Open your hands. Take one of those brand-new, shiny gifts that the Lord has given you and share it today with someone. You will find, I think, that Jesus was right. It is far more blessed to give, than to receive. Even when the Giver is God.
In the long run, you'll enjoy the party more if you share.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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