Is it truly better to give then receive? On an earthly level this is most definitely true, for our Lord and Savior stated as much. The Christmas season often brings to mind that phrase as we go about with our shopping and at various family gatherings. Yet, what about eternity; what sacrifice can we make that earns us a place in heaven? The answer is none.

All of our earthly giving amounts to nothing eternally. The writer to the Hebrews explains it best when he wrote:

For since the Law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

(Hebrews 10:1-4)

You see, the giving of a sacrifice at the alter only foreshadowed the truth of the True Sacrifice. As the writer of Hebrews correctly notes the continual giving did not make perfect those who did them. He even goes to the very root of the issue noting that these sacrifices could not possibly take away sin, even hypothetically. Therefore, our sins continue to weigh heavily on us even as we do our best to present good works–sacrifices, if you will–to God in the hope that we perform enough good to tip the scales in our proverbial favor. Sacrifice is a good thing when done for the right reasons. Additionally, the same is true for all our good deeds. One then cannot forget, as the writer of Hebrews correctly interjects, that by these sacrifices one is reminded of their sins. And it is there that the truth of the matter lies. All the good deeds in the world only amount to reminding us of our bad deeds, our sins. Our generosity, kindness, and selflessness can never coverup what transgressions we have done. But this would not be a very good Christmas story if it were to end in such a despairingly state.

Graciously, God has provided a means of gaining entrance into heaven through His Son Jesus Christ; who, as the Apostle John describes, came to provide for us grace upon grace (John 1:16). It is this gift of grace the writer of Hebrews describes which has now replaced the Law. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were to be physically done, as are good deeds today, for they point toward a greater truth. The physical action of performing a sacrifice was required by God because of obedience. Obedience and love for God was shown by trusting Him and doing what He required, which was why it was a sweet savor for Him. Yet, when sacrifices were not given with a loving obedient heart the real purpose of sacrifice becomes readily apparent. Consider the words of the Lord spoken through prophet Isaiah, “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations–I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.” (Isaiah 1:12-13). The Lord explains it best, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

It is only through the gift of Jesus Christ who serves as a propitiation for all sin can we discover true forgiveness. It is this precious gift that He has chosen to provide, and that we must consciously receive. The gift of His righteous sacrifice for us on the blood stained cross nearly 2,000 years ago is the only gift that has ever and could ever allow us entrance into heaven and provide eternal everlasting life.

The coming of the Christ and His subsequent death on the cross perfectly appeased sin:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

(Hebrews 10:11-18)

The good deeds of this world are never a means of gaining access to God and they never were. However, this fact by no means implies that we should not do good. For those who have accepted the most gracious gift must give of themselves sacrificially. Not in some cultic way that attempts to give to others in order to payback a gift that was given with strings attached! By all means, no. For the gift was given to each of us unmerited; a gift which is impossible to repay. No, Christians give because they love He who first loved them. A Love that is displayed through obedience and sacrificial giving. Giving that results in strengthening the body of Christ.

Near the end of Paul’s journey he spoke to the believers in Ephesus, the Apostle Luke documented:

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the week and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

(Acts 20:32-35)

Give sacrificially during the Christmas season as we all should every season. Yet, don’t loose perspective. For that baby whose birth we celebrate at this yearly time was, is, and will be forever the greatest and most sacrificial gift of all time.

~~Merry Christmas, 2009