One of my grandchildren’s favorite questions when they saw me coming, and especially at Christmas, was, “What did you bring me?” I just laughed, because I did the same thing when I was their ages. But, as I read my Bible one day, I was struck by a woman who was more concerned about what she could do for another person, rather than what someone could do for her. She not only provided much-needed assistance, but she did so in a way that kept providing year after year, so much so that the recipient finally asks what he could do for her. For the recipient of her generosity, she was a gift from God.
This is a great lesson to learn in this season of giving, because being the gift of God toward another person truly displays the words found in Acts 20:35, “And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
In 2 KIngs 4:8-17 is the story of a wealthy woman in the town of Shunem who urged Elisha, the holy man of God, to come to her house for a meal. After that day, any time that Elisha came through the town, he would stop there to eat. Then one day, purely on her own initative and desire to be give more, she said to her husband, “Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.”
Her husband must have agreed, because when Elisha and his servant returned to Shunem, he used this upper room to rest. What a gift! No more having to rest wherever he could find or afford. Having a designated place to rest was a gift that kept on giving year after year. What made the gift so much more appreciated was that he had not asked for it; instead, the woman had seen his needs and had used the blessings that God had provided for her to, in turn, bless him.
Elisha was so touched by her compassion and generous heart that he wanted to do something for her. However, when his servant, Gehazi, asked her, as he was instructed by Elisha to do, what they could do for her, she replied that her family provided all she needed. But, Elisha was determined to do something good for her, so when Gehazi tells him that she did not have a son and her husband was old, Elisha had his answer.
You see, the woman had not conceived and bore a child, which meant that when her husband died, she would be left vulnerable socially and, possibly, financially. A son meant that she would have someone to care for her and her finances, so Elisha promised her that at the same time the next year, she would “be holding a son in your arms!” And even though she at first thought that he was deceiving her or giving her false hope, she became pregnant and a had a son at the time Elisha said. Her generosity resulted in her own gift that kept giving, although she did not give to receive anything for herself.
For me, this story is a lesson for all of us at Christmas time: be the gift that keeps on giving, rather than worrying about what you will receive. Remember that God saw that if he were going to spend eternity among the human creations whom He loved, they would need to be reconciled to him, because of their sin. He provided His only begotten Son as the precious Lamb of God who died for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died once, but He continues as the High Priest that intervenes to reconcile us to God when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord of our lives. Jesus as Redeemer is the gift that keeps on giving from generation to generation. He paid the ransom in full. God saw a need and, through His plan of salvation, we have a chance for eternal life. We did not ask Him to do it, but, praise God, He did it for us.
I read recently that giving increases during the holiday season to organizations that support the poor and homeless, but drops the rest of the year, except after disasters. But, homelessness, hopelessness, and hunger continue during the whole year. Let us use the blessings that God has given us to bless others in ways that keep on providing month after month, rather than only once when the spirit of giving hits us. A monthly gift automatically given each month would mean that the funds are available throughout the year to provide for the ones that Jesus called “the least among us.” Be the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season, and don’t wait to see if someone else will do it.