Two men, who I just met, have been coming to my house and working on my hot water heater for free.  We go to the same church, but different campuses.  They’re part of what we call “Love Thy Neighbor” ministry.  They’re not here, as I type, because I’m poor.  They’re not here because I don’t have money in the bank to pay for a repairman.  They’re not here because I wouldn’t have known who to call (though that part is true).  They’re not even here because I’m a single mom in need.  Nope.  I know why I called them and I know why they’re here.
A friend of mine surprised me a couple weeks ago.  My kids and I were staying in a hotel, not because we wanted to, and I woke up to a small package filled with gift cards.  Her timing was perfect as I had just realized I had chosen a hotel without a continental breakfast and I needed to feed my kids something before dropping them at school.  She didn’t give me those giftcards because she thinks I’m poor.  She didn’t give me those giftcards because she felt sorry for me (though she might have as my situation kinda sucked).  She didn’t give me those giftcards because I give off the vibe that I can’t take care of my children.  Uh-uh.  I know why she gave me that gift and why I was able to accept it with gratitude.
Over the years, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to surprise a friend or two with gifts, some big, some small.  Never once did I give a gift because I thought the recipient couldn’t take care of themselves or their own family.  I never did so because the person implied they were just getting by.  In fact, I never did so based on how much money I thought they had or didn’t have.  And I never gave out of obligation or pity.  Not a chance.  I completely know why I have given what I’ve given and why I’ve given to who I’ve given.
Christianity, the faith that I proclaim, runs counter cultural.  I am not of the belief that the entire point of life is to become self-actualized and achieve my greatest potential as a human being, all on my own, pulling myself up by my own bootstraps.
Instead, I believe that the journey I’m on is with Christ and with other people.
My life is not about me; my life is not my own.  I do not believe it’s about what I can earn and what I can achieve and what I can set aside for myself.  I do not believe it’s about what I can do and what I can accomplish for myself.  And I certainly don’t believe it’s about proving that I don’t need anybody’s help from time to time, because I do.
So here is why there are two men working in my basement who I just met.  And here’s why my friend surprised me with giftcards for breakfast.  And here’s why I give gifts to my friends.
We’re family.  We take care of each other.  Not out of pity.  Not because we can’t take care of ourselves (though there are some seasons where we can’t, and that’s okay).  Not because we feel we have to.  But because of this one life-altering-if-you-let-it truth:
We love each other because Christ loved us first. (I John 4:19)
These two men, and my friend, and even me…we love each other because Christ loved us first.  Because we believe we’re better together.  Because we believe all good and perfect gifts come from God and that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it and that what we’ve been given is not ours to hold onto but ours to pass along.  Because we believe we’re supposed to show each other, and those in our life, the love of Christ.  But not just out of “ought”…we want to.  We delight in it.
In fact, it’s not weakness to accept a gift. It takes strength to be vulnerable and it takes humility to allow someone else the joy of being a gift-giver. There’s delight in the giving and in the receiving because we know that both are rooted in passing along the love we’ve inherited from Christ. He loved first and we hand it on.

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