In one of my favorite novels, Magnificent Obsession, Lloyd C. Douglas tells the story of a doctor who devotes his life to living a principle he learned from the gospel of Matthew: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (6:3-4). I’m not a big fan of taking scriptures out of context, or picking and choosing parts to live by (as the book’s protagonist does), but this passage offers a great way to think about giving gifts, especially Christmas gifts.
In this passage, Jesus is chastising the Pharisees for their showy acts of charity. The Pharisees had been seeking praise from men, not giving for the sake of glorifying God. There’s a big difference. One is self centered; one is God centered.
I’ve seen the how powerful this kind of gift can be as a ministry to others. My husband and I both attended Westmont College, and it recently benefited from a huge anonymous gift of $75 million dollars, the second largest gift ever given to a national liberal arts college (click here to read the article). We love our former college, and it’s so encouraging to us to hear that it has been so richly blessed by someone who believes in this sort of anonymous giving principle.
When we were students there, I recall a smaller anonymous gift that was dropped off at the campus. It was “only” one million dollars, but it was the talk of campus for weeks. All of the students were inspired by the incredible act of generosity and Godly sacrifice on our behalf.
If you’d like to practice this form of giving in your community, it’s as simple as not associating your name with donations to charity or leaving gifts without names attached to them. There are organizations out there that assist you in practicing this principle. Appropriately, one is called The Magi Gifts, and they help you donate anonymously to needy families in your community (click here to learn more).
I’d considered not labeling all my Christmas presents this year, but I think my family would figure it out, based on the process of elimination. This principle might be best practiced outside the family gathering. However, some of you might even think of ways to do this as part of the family Christmas tradition (perhaps if everyone agrees not to put the giver’s name on any of the gifts). I’d love to hear your ideas!