July 27, 2008

The Giver in the Gift

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

We were delighted to share … not only the gospel … but our lives as well …
1 Thessalonians 2:8


Paul's words remind us that the greatest blessings we receive from others are found not so much in the gifts they give but in the people they are. They invest themselves in us, and in so doing some of their own good character rubs off on us. In one of his books Lewis Smedes writes about the time he and his wife came home and found a package on their front porch. They opened it and found inside a beautiful afghan that someone had knitted for them. It was a gift from a woman who had been a member of Smedes's congregation many years before and who had stayed in touch with them over the years. Smedes writes poetically about how the gift they received was much greater than the afghan. It was as if the person who made it had stitched compassion right into it. The love and kindness of their friend's gift made Smedes and his wife feel warmer than the warmth any afghan could provide. When we invest ourselves in the lives of other people, we give them greater help than any mere gift can supply. Every gift is but an extension of the great gift of ourselves. That's why helping others must include more than just praying for them. When we ask God to help others, the intersection of our lives with theirs may be the best answer to our prayers.

Lord, you have given yourself so fully to us. Help us to follow your example by investing ourselves in the lives of others. Teach us to be humble, and show us how to serve. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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