If you’re like me, you might have felt (more than) a little bit insulted at such a question — or at least you would have been if it were posed to you by someone you know personally. I would have felt the same way a year or two ago, but God used a seemingly small scenario to probe my heart and show me how selfish I’d been in my giving. Maybe He can use my story to “stir up” even better works of giving in your own heart (Hebrews 10:24).
Just a Simple “Thank You”
I’d labored tirelessly to get all the Christmas gifts made, wrapped, and sent out in the mail — none of which was a small feat for a tired mommy of two toddler boys with a baby on the way. With a dozen or so nieces and nephews spread across three states, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see them all around the holidays and couldn’t afford to spend much money on each of them: thus began my tradition of sending homemade, personalized gifts.
I excitedly awaited the phone call or thank-you note that would let me know that someone appreciated my efforts. That year, none came. With each passing week of January, I found myself increasingly impatient and frustrated. I didn’t send the gifts with expectations of receiving gifts in return; I just wanted a simple “Thank you.” Was that too much to ask?
Checking My Motivation
While I didn’t expect gifts in return, I had expected — and anticipated — the gratification of kind words, thankful words. While I hadn’t knowingly made and sent the gifts “with strings attached,” my negative attitude when I didn’t receive the response that I’d expected clued me in that my motivations weren’t as pure as I had thought. The lack of thanks did not prompt me to give more, but to consider never giving again. What a selfish, graceless heart! I’m sure God isn’t pleased when I give with such a self-seeking, prideful heart.
I realized that while the homemade gifts had gone out with hopes of compliments, other gifts I gave sometimes came from other desires — for instance, the gratification of seeing a baby in a cute dress I’d picked out (when her mom would be better served with something for which she’d registered).
I determined to spend a portion of my gift-giving budget on intentionally anonymous gifts or gifts with spiritual implications, in order to check my own selfish, praise-craving heart. Giving shouldn’t be about me, at all: It should be an overflow of the undeserved grace God pours out on my life.
Now, I’m not against thank-you notes; I send them and will teach my kids to send them. But expecting any kind of response from others can be a problem. I can honestly say I’m now thankful for not getting those thank-you notes. God used those notes I didn’t get to show me something I needed to get — about giving, about my own heart.