Re-gifting: Our calling and purpose

My sister-in-law has every right to hate me. I wouldn’t blame her a bit. I was twelve when my nephew was born, and almost immediately began buying him inappropriate toys. If it was sure to make a mess, loud noises or provide general brain tremors, and it was in my price range, I bought it and gave it to Zac. I’m sure my sister-in-law hates me. Wouldn’t you? She’s been really gracious.  On every occasion to repay me, she hasn’t given my children overzealous, annoying toys; she’s bought them cute and sensible clothing. She’s either a saint, or is just saving up her revenge for something HUGE, like a drum set on their 10th birthdays. I deserve that, but I’m praying she shows mercy. I hope she re-gifted some of those toys, so that she wasn’t surrounded by swarms of beeping, gooey, talking, shooting, slimy presents.

I actually gave this to my nephew. His poor mother

Some see re-gifting as the pinnacle of tacky. I believe those people who think it’s really tacky, probably have the luxury of finding it tacky. They can afford to buy new gifts for people for every occasion. When I got married, I got lots of gifts. I was truly blessed. We were struggling college students who got married really young, and lived worse than just paycheck to paycheck. David took three part-time jobs and I had two. So, when a few months after my wedding, a close acquaintance got married, I had nothing but a stack of wedding presents, yet unopened. I chose one, a cooking set I had received, which seemed really nice. I did not open  the box to look inside, I just wrapped it, wrote a card, and re-gifted. The sauce, it turns out, was expired.

It seems this gift (that I realize now I shouldn’t have passed on) became a family joke, passed like a white elephant present from person-to-person. One never knew where the gift would turn up, and when it did, they would laugh. I suppose that implies some mockery of me, and not just my gift. I didn’t work hard to purchase that gift; it was the gift of what I had at the time, but I didn’t buy it. I felt so terrible in having to give that, rather than a nice gift off their registry. I felt it wasn’t worth much, and the “game” played with my gift made it feel even more so.

I still struggle with feeling my gifts aren’t good enough. I hear “it’s the thought that counts” and delve into paranoia, sure that my gifts are ridiculed behind my back and giggled about when I’m not around. I read the widow’s mite story in Mark, where a woman gave all that she had to the treasury and Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury, for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty, put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mark 12:43-44), but I still feel inadequate. I sit in the pew on Sunday, soaking up the Word; I enjoy the work of the church, I benefit from the childcare, the education, the community and fellowship and feel terrible.

The reason is: I feel like I’ve given back so little. I haven’t passed along the gift I’ve received, as I should. What is tacky to the world, giving someone else a gift we’ve received, is the whole point of the gospel. Unlike the gifts I gave my nephew, re-gifting the gospel should be appropriate to the receiver. If I give that gift (read: tell someone about Jesus) in a way that makes it clear that I am immature, it makes the gift seem annoying, similar to those blinking, bopping, messy toys I gave my nephew. I realize that I gave the wrong gift at the wedding shower. I should have given no present at all, but could have offered to do something nice for the couple, instead, or maybe should have just bought a set of kitchen tongs or something small. Giving gifts has to be intentional and purposeful and proper in its context.

That makes it really important to KNOW people. We have to know and appreciate those to whom we give this gift, so that we make sure that everything is geared toward the recipient while giving glory to the original Giver. I want my message to be one that resonates with them. You have to know where they are coming from, before you know which shoes to offer. How the gift is presented is optional, what’s not optional is re-gifting. Jesus said “Go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:19-20. Those are the last recorded words of Jesus in Matthew before his ascent into heaven.

I can choose to focus on love or hope or help in times of trouble, or support or ministering to others or majesty or sovereignty or prophecy — because one of those, or two of those, or all of those, might appeal to the receiver. I can change the way I present the message, but I must pass that gift along, because it’s not a choice to re-gift the Gospel, it’s my calling and purpose as one who has received so much.

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One response to “Re-gifting: Our calling and purpose

  1. Great post. Your sister in law is gracious indeed. My brother and sister in law (much younger than me) always gave the noisiest, messiest, most annoying and impractical gifts to my girls including dolls that poop and pee (two of them!). I always threatened to re-pay them. This last Christmas, I returned the favor and gave my niece who is two a brand new doll – who poops and pees. My poor sister in law looked like she was going to cry before the evening was over and there was doll poop everywhere. I felt really bad. I think I’m done with my revenge. Only thoughtful gifts from now on.

    Whenever I have an opportunity to share the gospel (which is usually more with actions than with words, I’m afraid) I try and keep in mind approaches I found appealing or hurtful when I was unsaved and people were trying to ‘reach’ me. I came to Christ as an adult and I have witnessed some would be evangelists do more harm than good to a seeker’s heart. Perhaps I am too shy with the good news at times because of my experience. My Mom once told me that the one thing that sparked her own interest in Christ (although she is still not quite a believer) is the testimony of my dramatically changed life.

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