Gifts are a wonderful thing. We’re shopping through a store and happen upon a particular item that we know a particular someone would really enjoy. We buy the gift, wrap it up all nice and neat, then wait for the right time and give it to that person. You anxiously wait while they peel off the paper or open the bag, and then you beam with joy as you see their face light up. You have brought them joy and in so doing have also brought joy upon yourself.
But what else has happened? Well the gift you bought is no longer yours. It is now in the firm possession of the one you gave it to. Yes, you received some type of gratification or relief, but the fact is that you had something tangible and now you don’t.
The point of this is to show that tangible (as well as some other types) gifts are finite. It’s a zero sum game. I know this is painfully obvious, but track with me.
We know that physical gifts are finite. But what if there was a gift that wasn’t? What if there was something that we could give and still not have to give up? What if there was a gift that was infinitely divisible and yet never lost its original value? A gift that even multiplied, sometimes exponentially, when given?
Too good to be true? Well I know it might sound cheesy, but that gift is the gift of love. We humans have the capacity and means to love each other like we never have before. What’s fascinating is that it truly is contagious.
The problem sometimes is that we treat love as if it is a finite resource. When you have a finite good, lets say money, we tend to save it and only use it for things that we believe will give us the best return on our investment. Basically we use it for mostly self-centric purposes.
We don’t help someone on the side of the road because our schedule is too tight to make an hour long detour. We don’t take the time to spend with our family because we are too involved in our work. We don’t invest in people because it’s too hard. These are all examples of us treating love like it’s a finite resource.
Love, however, was never meant to be “spent” as a finite resource. But think about it. How do you spend your love? If we are all honest, the majority of our love is spent on people who we are sure will spend their love on us.
And yet Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount challenge us to go far beyond loving those who love us. “For even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6:33)
Seem hard to love those who hate you, are different from you, or need more than they can give? For sure. But the comfort is that God will always enable us to do what he commands. You see, the first step in spending love as if it’s not a finite resource is realizing that it is in fact an infinite resource.
It’s an infinite resource because a Christian’s love does not depend on what they can generate themselves but on the love with which we are loved by an infinite God. We are a vessel which is meant to be poured out for the sake of others while being filled up by a reserve of water which never runs dry.
So what does it look like, though, to treat love as an infinite resource? It means loving those who don’t love you back. It means loving those you think are undeserving. It means going above and beyond expectations in serving other people. It means bringing people into your life which may drain your energy, seemingly waste your time, or generally make life difficult.
Loving in this way is not safe. It is not easy. It is not convenient. Loving this way is uncertain, it will hurt, and it will require vulnerability. But where we are assured of the reward, we are free to love dangerously.
“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgement; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:16-21
In this season of gift giving, let us remember to give the greatest gift we have ever been given unreservedly.