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A temple talk.

There are three key thoughts in this message:
1. God is Gift
2. Giving is getting, and
3. You and I are God's gifts to this world.

When Dave Christianson asked me about three weeks ago to give this little talk on gifts and giving, I said "yes." But I have to admit to some "mis-givings."

I knew the month of November for me was packed solid with commitments--international visitors, major meetings, all the usual activities and distractions that eat up available time. But, in fact this request has turned, as somehow I knew it would, into itself - a gift. I've now been blessed with three weeks to think more deeply about giving, and as this deadline has approached, my misgivings have evaporated.

As Mark Twain once wrote, "There's nothing that focuses the mind quite so powerfully as knowing you're going to be hanged in the morning."

I want to share three thoughts with you this morning:
1. God is Gift
2. Giving is getting, and
3. You and I are God's gifts to this world.

God is Gift
"God is great, God is good, and we thank him for this food"... my family has said this prayer ever since my very first memories. In these words we have thanked God thousands of times for what? For his gifts to us. The Bible is full of God's gifts, from Adam and Eve in the perfect garden, to Moses, Abraham and the prophets, to the ultimate gift of Jesus, his only begotten son, given for us to wipe away our sins. Truly the gift that keeps on giving, day after day, week after week, year after year, vacuuming away our sins.

A couple of weeks ago I asked a colleague of mine who has a computerized New Testament to do a comparative search for me. I was interested to know the relative frequency of the words for "gifts and giving" versus the word "love." I have always thought of the New Testament as a book dominated by love. But by his count "love" appears 215 times, while forms of the words for "gifts and giving" appear 379 times.

I've now revised my opinion to consider the New Testament as a book of giving and love. And come to think of it, they are really two forms of the same thing, each expressing the other. A gift at its most basic is something given in love, with no expectation of anything in return. God is Gift and God is Love.

Giving is Getting
As a former Baptist minister and student of Greek my computerized colleague also informed me that the famous statement "God loves a cheerful giver," actually translates more literally to "God loves a hilarious giver." I love this image of hilarious giving and have, of course, made the necessary corrections to my Bible.

Thursday noon I participated in an honors luncheon for Minnesota Philanthropy Day, held in the RiverCentre ballroom. 550 people attended to recognize individuals and organizations who uphold the highest traditions of giving in this state. Speaker after speaker affirmed the fact that giving people, in these cases people with incredible stories of personal courage and extraordinary selflessness, always receive far more than they have given.

For the past dozen years my consulting practice has focused on helping not-for-profit organizations. When working with non-profit boards I always emphasize that they need to establish a policy of 100% giving and getting, where all members not only give of their treasure and talents, but also give time helping others to learn to give. Giving is a learned behavior and if givers get so much more in return, asking others to give is in fact, itself a gift. In every philanthropy survey I've ever seen the number one reason people offer for NOT giving is, they weren't asked. No one reached out to them and shared the gifts of giving and getting.

You and I are God's gifts to this world.  People who society deems especially talented are called what? Gifted, of course.

But we are all gifted by God with a place in this community, this city, this state, this nation, this world, in this moment of time. The question is what have we been put here to do? Each of us has been put here for a reason and with a giving heart each of us can help change the world. Our church provides us a primary vehicle for positive change, for giving where it counts. Individually we can do much, but collectively we can do almost anything we set our minds to accomplish.

Let's pray,
God of all gifts, In this season of thanksgiving, come to this multi-gifted family of believers, bestow your gifts of giving on each of us. Overcome our misgivings with your love and help us share more fully these gifts with others. Help us become the hilarious givers that you love.

We ask this in the name of your greatest gift, your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


Bill Lorimer

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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