Giving without holding anything back

Proverbs 21

We have entered birthday party season.

That’s when school is in swing and the invitations start coming home rapid fire, weekend after weekend.  With my three girls all in school now, birthday party season has become a significant family investment.

We now have ground rules.

My kids announce the latest invitation before the minivan door even closes at the end of the school day, and I ask this all-important question:

Is this a real, actual, true friend?

This isn’t just a peripheral acquaintance whose last name you don’t know.  This isn’t the kind of ‘friend’ who sits across the room from you, one you never play with on the playground, and someone you’ve never actually seen eat lunch.

This is an actual friend.  You can tell me her full name, her likes and dislikes and something she might have in her lunchbox.

Once we’ve passed the true friend test and the calendar test (does this even remotely work with our crazy schedule), we’re on to planning a gift.

My kids love picking gifts for their friends.

Now, they sometimes lose a little perspective.  It happens.  We scan the aisles of the local Wal-Mart and they pick out gifts in the $50 range.

I re-direct them until we finally find IT: the perfect gift for the true friend.  Into the cart it goes and we tote it home with excitement.

Then, my kids spend the next week gazing longingly at this present as it sits on my dresser waiting to be wrapped.

It’s a good present.

In fact, it’s now exactly what they themselves would like for Christmas (hint, hint, hint).

My youngest daughter asks me, “Mom, did you happen to buy two of those?”

Now, I know full well my Mom-intentions.  I will surely buy this same prize gift, wrap it up for her and set it under the tree for Christmas morning.

But she doesn’t know that…and I don’t promise her that.

Maybe I want her to be surprised.

But maybe also this—I want her to give away the very best without knowing if she’ll get it back.

Sometimes we’re reluctant gift-givers.

We give out of excess.  We give from confident positions of wealth and security.  We give what we know we can do without.

We clear out cabinets of unwanted canned food during food drives and sometimes we don’t even look at the expiration date.

We clean out closets and send on clothes that are worn, outdated, faded, and even stained.

Yet, our offerings to God and our gifts to others should require sacrifice, not just out of our more-than-enough; we should give our best gifts to a God who has given His ALL to us.

And when we give, we let go.

We don’t hang on tight, trying to dictate how our gift is used, making sure God makes the most of it, making sure the sacrifice was worth it, making sure we’ll get it back.

I read this week what God asked His people to give:

You are to give them the firstfruits of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the first wool from the shearing of your sheep (Deuteronomy 18:4 NIV).

I’ve always thought about their sacrifices to God needing to be unblemished, needing to be pure, needing to be worthy.

But what God asked here was for the gift of the first: the first grain, wine, oil, and the first wool from a newly sheared sheep.

In her book Scouting the Divine, Margaret Feinberg describes how the first shearing is a once-in-a-lifetime offering:

Each sheep’s best wool comes only for its first-ever haircut, with every subsequent shearing decreasing in value.  I was intrigued by the idea that God asked for…a shearing that could never be recovered.”

They had to give God what they knew they would never ever get back from Him.  They had to trust that He’d care for and provide for them anyway.

We also have to give and trust God with the results.

For me, it means giving God my best writing and not telling Him what to do with it.  Just laying it down and leaving the results up to Him.

As a mom, it means skipping sleep and sometimes missing meals, certainly giving up moments of peace and my own personal agenda (and so much more).

We sacrifice as wives, as friends, as moms, as leaders, as teachers, as caregivers.

We give and give and give and give.  We pour out.  We take our greatest gifts, the very best of our offering, and we lay it right down, and we sacrifice without knowing if we’ll get anything back.

Because this is our offering to God: Not just the gifts themselves, but how we trust Him to care for us even when we’ve given our best away.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

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