We are coming into the holiday season when gifts and giving often occupy our thoughts. Some gifts we will purchase with joy and excitement, while others will feel more obligatory. How many times have you experienced an “empty gift,” a gift that had no real giving behind it?

Perhaps it was the nice what-not you received from a co-worker you really didn’t know at the annual office gift exchange, or maybe it was from a relative who felt compelled to “go through the holiday motions” of giving. The object itself may have been nice, but it felt empty because there was no real heart of giving represented in it.

Contrast this with the times you have received a gift from someone who gave it intending to convey their love for you. It didn’t matter what it cost, or even if it was something you wanted, for the love behind it touched you deeply. If, like me, you are a parent, you can think of many examples.

I remember when our son, Gabriel, was four. He brought home a wrapped gift from preschool that he proudly announced was for me. He was so excited for me to open it, that it was difficult for him to wait until Christmas. When the day came, he insisted I open it first. For a small gift it was heavy, and I couldn’t imagine what it could possibly be.

Inside was a rock decorated with blobs of various bright colors, sealed with a shiny coat of shellac. “Oh Gabriel,” I exclaimed, “Its beautiful! Did you make it for me?” I was absolutely clueless as to what it was.

Gabriel was smiling ear to ear, beaming with pride. He nodded “yes” enthusiastically and proclaimed, “It’s a rainbow Daddy. It’s for work. I made it!” We finally figured out it was a paperweight, and for years I proudly displayed it on my desk. I can’t tell you the number of times I looked at that paperweight, and remembered my son’s little face flushed with excitement, and full of love as he gave it to me. It was a real gift that kept giving to me for years.

Our Father God is a giver, and He demonstrated the essence of a real gift to us. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world (that’s us), that He gave us His only Son, Jesus, to come and demonstrate His love by dying for our sins. Real gifts are motivated by love, and they carry the power of love as a giving force that touches our lives in profound ways.

God encourages us to be givers of real gifts. He warns us that even sacrificial gifts can be given without love, and they will amount to nothing at all. (I Corinthians 13:3) But He also gave us a beautiful example of a real gift. Jesus was in the temple one day as the people were bringing their offerings to God. The wealthy gave with a flourish, large amounts of silver and gold coins that clattered, drawing attention to their giving.

However, Jesus noticed a little widow who quietly slipped in and gave a humble offering of two pennies. He announced to His disciples, “She has given more than all the others, for she gave everything that she has.” (Luke 21:3) Her giving touched His heart, for He knew hers was a real gift. Only her love for God could have motivated her to give her all.

Come join us this Sunday at 9:00 AM or 11:00 AM as we look at the joy and blessing of giving real gifts in our new series, “The Grace of Giving.” My sermon is “Giving that Pleases God.”

Ché Ahn and his wife, Sue, are the Founding Pastors of HRock Church in Pasadena, California. Ché serves as the Founder and President of Harvest International Ministry (HIM) and the International Chancellor of Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI). With a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, he has played a key role in many strategic outreaches on local, national and international levels. He has written more than a dozen books and travels extensively throughout the world, bringing apostolic insight with an impartation of renewal, healing and evangelism.