Have you ever given a gift that hurt? Something that required significant sacrifice on your part?
Consider this passage from Luke 21:1-4:
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (ESV)
Let’s say you give a hungry stranger $5 for a meal. That’s a great gift! You could be giving it out of Christian love and a genuine desire to help that person. But consider your circumstances. Do you have food at home? Is there gas in your car? Can you cover your expenses until next payday? If so, the gift probably didn’t involve much personal sacrifice.
There’s nothing wrong with giving from abundance. Just think of Luke 12:48 that says to whom much is given, much will be required. But consider what God can do in the life of the giver when someone gives from their lack.
Here are 5 gifts that don’t cost a penny but may involve personal sacrifice.
1. The Benefit of the Doubt
Do you ever attach negative motivations to others’ behavior without really knowing the truth? 1 Corinthians 13 tells us all about how to love others. In verse 7, it says “Love … believes all things.” It looks for the best in others; it gives the benefit of the doubt.
Why would giving someone the benefit of the doubt be an act of sacrifice? Because it takes effort and an open mind. It’s an act of love. Maybe not everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, but ours is a faith defined by grace. In our interactions with others, why don’t we start there—with grace?
It’s easy to create false narratives in our mind and way too easy to share them with others. Let’s make the sacrifice of interrupting that process this Christmas season, with our friends, our coworkers and especially our families.
>>Extending grace to others may be easier when we understand God’s grace toward us. Listen to this message from Billy Graham on God’s Unmerited Favor.
2. A Second Chance
Did anybody get crossed off your “nice” list this year—or maybe many years ago—because they hurt you with their words or actions? Your hurt is real. Their words or actions inflicted that hurt. So another Christmas passes without exchanging a card, a call, a gift or a visit.
This year, consider Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” (ESV)
>>Are you finding it hard to forgive someone? Read Billy Graham’s Answers on forgiveness.
Who would like more encouragement? Most of us would.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 includes this challenge: “…encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
So what does sacrificial encouragement look like? Taking the time to step outside of yourself no matter how much is weighing on you, no matter how busy you are, and sowing reassurance and confidence into another person at a key moment in time. Just telling someone “You can do this” or “I have confidence in you” can change the trajectory of someone’s whole day.
Take a moment to encourage someone today through a call, a note, a text or Facebook message.
4. A Listening Ear
“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak …” Those wise words come from James 1:19. They aren’t easy by any means, but heeding them can provide an incredible gift.
When someone wants to share a burden, sometimes that’s all they want. Just somebody to listen. Being a good listener doesn’t mean you have to try to fix their problems. It just means that for a particular moment in time you listen. And by listening, you help the other person offload some of their burden, if only for that instant.
>>Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains deploy to disaster-stricken communities to offer a listening ear and help people through their grief. Read how their ministry of presence is having an impact around the world.
1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
When you serve someone a meal, you’re giving them more than something to eat. You’re giving your time. That may be the most precious earthly commodity any of us has. In theory, you can always work longer and make more money, but no one has figured out how to make more time.
An hour of your time can change someone’s life. Some people need very practical things that they simply aren’t able to do themselves: help organizing their closets, someone to rake their leaves, take out the trash, shop for groceries.
Do you know someone caring for an elderly parent, a special needs child, a new baby, a chronically ill spouse? Just coming alongside for an hour or two, saying “I’ll take over while you do your Christmas shopping,” or “Let me take your mom to the doctor next week so you can have a little quiet time” may be the best gift someone receives this year. Providing the gift of respite in the midst of someone’s daily, 24/7 care-giving is hard, but it comes with a tremendous upside blessing.
>>Find more ideas for sacrificial gifts that don’t cost a cent. Read this message from Ruth Bell Graham on Giving Timeless Gifts.