Are You More in Love With the Gift than the Giver?
Rarely, have I ever been hit so hard by a question or a quote from the Bible, a sermon, or a book than what I heard last week. I was listening to a sermon and the pastor asked “Are you more in love with the gift, then the giver?” At that point I stopped listening because I was convicted and I didn’t like the answer.
The question reminded me of 2007 when our growing business leased two warehouses and when my oldest son and I built the showroom. I had dreams of someday passing the business on to our boys and living the good life in retirement.
I was also reminded of the day we bought our Toyota forklift and then going way back in time to 1973 when my dad bought a forklift for his business. Those were good times but I also vividly remember the devastating effects of the last recession and the moment when I hired a flat bed tow truck and the driver hauled away my prized possession. I stood there motionless while realizing that my dream of business ownership may very well be gone forever.
Escaping that painful thought brought me back to 1999. I remembered when Christ Community Church was a growing church of 425 members and so many kids you practically stepped on them while talking after the service.
That year we had more than enough volunteers to remove the juniper plants from the front parking lot medians and add sprinklers, palm trees, and drought resistant plants. Elsie De Jong showed up every work day with her homemade cinnamon buns and times were good, but they didn’t last.
There were more memories I could share but you get the point. My memory brought me to the times my hopes were soaring followed by the times of pain and despair. It was how I dealt with the pain that made me realize that I was more in love with the gift than the giver. Even though my spiritual growth has increased greatly since then, I’m still hanging on wondering from time to time what might have been.
Shortly after we closed the business I had heard of the Decade of Destiny at another church and I decided this is what I wanted: a new direction and a more balanced life with a higher priority in relationships and falling deeply in love with God.
I was trained in 2011 to lead Men’s Ministry and from there we developed the One Hope Toy Drive, a men’s small group Celebrate Recovery class and Campus Care. We also helped single moms with moving from one home to another, set up for the Harvest Festival, and the street
banner event advertising. I was tremendously blessed by the friendships that developed from these ministries but as our church attendance grew smaller and smaller even these things faded away.
The lesson I learned is that there is a time and a season for everything. I had made our business my god and I was consumed by it. The rational was, if you don’t live, eat, and breathe your business it’s just a hobby and it’s not going to grow. I didn’t have balance in my life and Ioving God was not my priority. I was not prepared for a season of change.
By now you probably figured out that “loving the gift more than the giver” is just a clever way of rephrasing the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God... You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2-3. Sometimes it is the very blessings that God gives us that can keep us far from God.
Take the story of king Nebuchadnezzar. Having been warned a year earlier to renounce his sins and to stop being wicked to the oppressed he’s now up on his roof strutting his stuff and feeling good, until he opens his mouth and brags how he built Babylon by his mighty power for the glory of his majesty. What was he smoking?
In the blink of an eye Nebuchadnezzar lost his kingdom and became like an animal eating grass and being drenched by the morning dew. As promised, after seven years the kingdom is restored to Nebuchadnezzar and the king makes this incredible statement while praising God: He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35
I’ve never actually said the words “What have you done” but in looking back over time I’ve been thinking it all along. Apparently even a memory can become a god... the god of good times. While there is certainly nothing wrong with good times, what’s wrong is the expectation the good times should last forever. This is where I became prideful and arrogant.
I am a child of God. I am loved more than I can humanly imagine and I am relying on God’s promises. I have been corrected and I will change my thinking because if King Nebuchadnezzar, the richest and most powerful person in his day can change his thinking, then so can I.
I’m tired of eating grass.
John has been serving Christ Community Church in volunteer leadership positions since 1999 and his primary focus was in Men’s Ministry, One Hope Toy Drive, and Campus Care. His newest passion is to raise the evangelistic temperature of our church by helping others shape a relational and natural approach to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through Organic Outreach. John is married to Cindy Offringa, our Family Pastor. Together they raised five children and have been blessed with fourteen grandkids and one great grandchild.