Pastor’s Blog – Dec. 4

“So, this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11, MSG).
     The Beetles claim that all one needs is love. Foreigner wants to know what love is.  The Captain and Tennille believed that love would keep them together—that is until it didn’t. American culture has been in love with love for a long time. We sing about love. We cheer when lovers come together on the silver screen. Madison Avenue makes millions of dollars for its customers selling love.
     Love is everywhere today (or what, at least, masquerades as love). Love was equally as ubiquitous in Paul’s day. Yet as much as humanity pines to love and to be love, the act of expressing what Paul believed to be the most excellent kind of love escapes us.
     This is the reason the New Testament’s foremost evangelist urged Jesus’ followers to use their heads and test their feelings that their love might be sincere and intelligent. Personally, I get what Paul is saying. My family calls me a soft shell. I am inclined to give my left arm to someone who may need it. Thank goodness my heady wife is present most of the time to check my heart.
     Perhaps the disconnect between the heart and the head is the reason so many people overspend during the Christmas season. The human heart delights in hearing the squeals of joy when a child opens a long-sought gift. Our spirits sore when loved ones receive a present that brings tears to their eyes. The motivation for giving is understandable. Ben Carson claims that “Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” Happiness is a nice return on our investments in giving.
     Yet lavish giving should never be separated from giving smartly. The tendency to over give can turn an otherwise winsome child into a demanding whiner. The presentation of an ostentatious gift can be a selfish ploy towards getting something valued in return. Deliberately outgiving a rival giver for the purpose of garnering greater attention from the giftee is more an act of loathing one’s perceived competitor than it is loving the recipient.
     All of which is why Paul asks us as to examine our motives for giving. “Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of,” advises the first-century pastor. Offer the kinds of gifts that will put a smile on everyone’s face—including Jesus.
     A popular commercial poses the question: “What’s in your wallet?” I think a different kind of question is in order as we approach this Christmas season. What’s in your heart? I mean, really, what’s in there?