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Dec 19, 2010

What Do You Get For a God Who Has Everything?

As we’re all finishing our Christmas shopping this week, there’s probably that one last person you’re still shopping for because they already have everything. The toughest person to shop for is that man or woman who already has everything they would ever need. As challenging as that may be, what then can we offer to God who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” and in fact created and therefore owns everything in existence?

As I sat in church this morning surrounded by beautiful poinsettia plants, I remembered a story where I ran into a similar dilemma. Years ago I made a trip from Florida to the Washington D.C. area for some meetings at our division headquarters. While I was there, I also planned on getting something nice to take to our division secretary, Mary. This sweet lady arranged our travel, processed our expense reports, and provided all kinds of other assistance even for us remote employees way down in Florida. Since this would be my first chance to meet her in person, I wanted to arrive at the office with some nice flowers as a thank you gift.

When I arrived in D.C., I drove through town looking for a florist. Mind you, this was before the days of Garmin and Tom Tom, so finding a particular business while out of town was a challenge. I happened to find a florist, but since it was late December they didn’t have a very good selection of fresh flowers. So being determined to find Mary something nice, I pressed on in search of another flower shop. I finally stumbled upon a second shop, but they didn’t have any better selection of flowers. Then it dawned on me that I should just get a nice poinsettia plant instead. After all, it was almost Christmas, the plant would probably last longer than regular flowers, and they had plenty of nice plants to choose from. So I carefully looked over each and every one and selected the nicest to purchase for my gift.

I then drove to our office, parked my rental car, and walked into the tall building with my briefcase in one hand and Mary’s bright red poinsettia in the other. But when I walked through the glass doors into the huge lobby, my heart sank. Covering nearly every square foot of the building’s lobby were hundreds of poinsettia plants, even in the same pot and wrapping as what I held in my hand. What I had spent two determined hours to locate and purchase suddenly seemed all too commonplace.

Heartbroken but with no other option at this point, I still took my own poinsettia up to Mary and presented my humble gift to her with my appreciation for all she had done for us. Being the kind woman she was, she thanked me, protested that I really didn’t have to buy her anything, and then sat my plant down next to the other three poinsettias she already had in her office. Throughout the day, other co-workers who saw me arriving with my gift even teased by asking if I had just swiped a plant out of the lobby on my way in.

This reminded me of the effort we often go through to offer our gifts to God. While he asks for our praise, our obedience, our prayers, our tithes, and our service, we shouldn’t forget that while we may owe him everything, he doesn’t need anything. We can make a mistake when we bring our various gifts to God in order to earn something or to justify ourselves. There is nothing we can give to God which can ever atone for our sins, make us right in his judgment, or even repay him for the countless blessings we receive from him every day. In Isaiah 64:6, God even says "our righteous acts are like filthy rags."  It is only when we offer our gifts to him out of pure gratitude and faith that he mysteriously transforms them into pleasing aromas and worthy offerings.

If our sinful hearts were naturally inclined to obedience, God wouldn’t have given us the Law to define sin. If we weren’t prone to stray from his law, he wouldn’t have sent all the prophets to call us back. And if we weren’t utterly lost in our sins, and had any way at all to redeem ourselves, God wouldn’t have had to send his only son to die for the price of our sins. Only the gift of the righteousness which Christ earned for us can ever satisfy what we owe to God.

In this Christmas season, when we drive ourselves frantic and crazy trying to find the right gifts for everyone we love, don’t forget to pause and consider the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation freely given to anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord.

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