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Have you ever received a gift you didn’t need? What can make such a gift a joy anyway? —If it comes from the heart. Remember the time your little granddaughter gave you a pair of colorful (!) Christmas socks? The love behind those socks made that gift worth more than a wad of ten-dollar bills.

What about the Lord? The Lord does not need any gifts. Not one! It’s all His—cattle, grain, fine wood, gold, silver, money. He entrusts it to you. He lets you use it for yourself, your family, and your community. You are a “steward” managing His goods. Does He need a gift from you? No.

Well, then, what is the point of “giving” to the Lord if He doesn’t need gifts? Answer: He is interested in the heart. A heart bringing no gift to the Lord is a heart dwindling in love for Him. And He loved you first! “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Why would a heart begrudge a gift to Him Who has done everything for it, sinful as it is? Perhaps it’s because “1) I don’t have to. 2) I don’t have enough. 3) I don’t have anything left. 4) I’ve already done my duty. 5) Others can take care of it. 6) I forgot. 7) I don’t care.” Hmm, are these good reasons? God looks at the heart. God is not interested in “amount.” Concerning the widow’s two mites, Jesus said, “This poor widow has put in more than all.” (Luke 21:3) Her heart was with Jesus. The Lord loved her, and He loves you every day. Bring regular gifts to Him with hearts redeemed.

The devil sets traps even for faithful givers. Are gifts brought merely out of habit, like singing hymns with the mouth but not from the heart, which means nothing? Are gifts brought to the Lord out of a sense of obligation—”I have to do this, but I don’t want to”? Are gifts brought with fear for the future? Are gifts brought with a give-to-get motivation—”If the group puts up $10,000, then I will put up $10,000″? Is heartfelt love for the Savior front and center here?

In the Old Testament, tithes (tenths) were required—not in exchange for forgiveness or blessings, but as a gauge of devotion to the Lord. When tithes and offerings were omitted, God admonished those hearts-gone-astray, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse. . . . Try Me now in this, . . . if I will not open for you the windows of heaven.” (Malachi 3:10) When tithes and offerings were brought half-heartedly, the Lord rebuked: “When you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you?” (Malachi 1:8) When offerings were brought with hearts turned to idols, God warned, “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet to Me!” (Jeremiah 6:20)

The devil always wants to infect your relationship with your Savior and God. The devil wants to remove love from your heart. The devil wants you to bring empty gifts or no gifts at all.

It’s all about your faith in the Savior and your heart of love toward Him. God blesses. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

Richard Kanzenbach is pastor of Saint Luke’s Lutheran Church in Lemmon, South Dakota.