Mother Teresa QuoteAs human beings, we are created to love and take care of one another. For most of us, it’s an innate desire to not see suffering or sadness and to fulfill the needs of another. With all the present buying and gift giving around the holidays, society has implored us to share with each other and give to those less fortunate. For many families, it has become a tradition to offset the spending we do for ourselves and other family members that already have so much.

It’s always been our family’s tradition to buy gifts for angel tree kids. Michael, an avid shopper (for real), has always looked forward to picking the families on the tree and checking off every item on their Christmas list. We have always made it a point to take the kids with us to purchase some of the gifts. Charlie knew from a young age that Santa only brings you one or two gifts and the rest come from family. But some families can’t afford to buy for their children. He knew that giving gifts to his neighbors on Christmas was more important than getting gifts for himself.

Our angels this and last Christmas have been even more important to us. All of the children we have purchased for have been little boys, just Charlie’s age. We have lived through buying and giving to them, purchasing new bikes and scooters, all while envisioning Charlie on Christmas morning opening what items might have been on his list. Would he have asked for a new scooter, too, or his first chapter book? The children we have bought for this holiday season truly are our angels because loving on them, knowing they will have big smiles and happy hearts, connects us to Charlie.

However, giving is not always so authentic. Giving and pouring into others should make you feel full. But what happens when giving makes you feel empty? It’s the guilt of giving. Truthfully, I have given out of guilt many, many times. Maybe it’s someone you know who is hosting a fundraiser and you give because … well, you want to support that person. But do you really feel connected to the cause? Or maybe you find yourself giving to something out of peer pressure. “My friends and neighbors are doing it and they’ll know if I’m not. What will they think of me?” This is not the type of giving we were created for. I believe God wants us to give to others out of connection and desire to care for our neighbors, to use our gifts not out of recognition or checking a box, but to grow in love and faith with one another.

Matthew 6: 1 and 3 says:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven…” “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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

When I first read these verses, I thought, “well that’s kind of mean. Why shouldn’t we talk about the good work we do for those we love? Wouldn’t God want us to use our giving hearts to encourage others to give too?” Then I realized, that is not what God is saying to us at all. God is reminding us that giving and sharing with others is not about recognition or checking a box to “show” that we care. Giving and serving should come from the heart, a place that is sacred and only finds reward in loving. True love is not given out of need but out of want. We should give to the causes, people, and charities that are connected to our hearts. Any other type of giving of ourselves is purely out of guilt.

So I encourage you, not just in this holiday season but in every day of the year, to think about your gifts. What has God given to you that you can share with others? Not out of guilt but because of desire to love on those who need to be loved. Your gifts and what your heart is connected to may differ from your friends and neighbors. Be thankful for that because our world’s needs are great and varied, and one person is not expected to fill every void. God only asks us to give out of the goodness of our hearts so that in giving authentically, we may be full.