Wrap up something useful!

I have had enough of Christian gifts.

I realized this after opening the gift box for an item we gave our teachers and steering committee members on Monday and discovering yet another cross necklace made from nails. It's big, heavy, awkward (the perfect recipe for being left in a drawer in the first place) and its only use is to shout out "I'M A CHRISTIAN!" (A clarification; a while back I blogged about "outward signs" and how we need to use them, but I think those signs, like Christian jewelry, should be things I buy as a result of some encounter with God that calls me to use them, not just something handed out in church.)

At this point, the only gifts that are more useless than Christian gifts are golf gifts and those big plastic gag ties that have cup holders built into them. And uselessness is not what disciples of Christ are called to, ever.

'Tis the season for high school senior gifts, teacher gifts, volunteer gifts and confirmation gifts. I've looked over Interlinc's "conGRADulations" CD, and found it a basic set of run-of-the-mill Christian music that might be a good gift for a student who was already heavily into the CCM scene. Our confirmands, on the day we recognized them in church, had hideous orange t-shirts that I warned the planning team we would never see again, and neither would anyone else. Our seniors receive a book next week-- one of the many "Jesus promise books." That gift falls on the useless side of the line because it doesn't actally encourage Bible reading, only looking up of single verses.

On Confirmation day, the youth and adult confirmands did get a useful gift-- a personal Book of Common Prayer. If we've taught them properly, that will be something they reach for often.

Gifts for disciples should be things that they will use all the time, and use to help others and share the active, loving message of Jesus Christ. Our high school seniors are moving away to a new place-- give them one of those neat in-car navigators to keep them from getting lost. Or at least a set of maps for the town they're moving to. "My church doesn't want me to get lost," they will think. Score one for usefulness and spiritual metaphor!

When a student gets a driver's license, send him off to his car with a set of jumper cables or a toolkit, both to empower him to meet emergencies and to serve others who are in need. "My youth group leader told me to help people," the new driver will realize, "and gave me tools to help me do it. She must be really serious about this!"

At Confirmation, arm the students with a Leatherman. On Bible Sunday, when younger students receive the Scriptures for the first time, include highlighters to mark verses that catch their eyes. "You're giving me permission to mark in my Bible? I wonder what's in here that I'll want to remember."

When we decide on gifts to give in our ministries, we need to pay less attention to "spiritual meaning" (which often doesn't translate without a lot of work from giver to recipient) and spend more time answering the question "How useful is it?"

C.S. Lewis said, "We don't need more people writing Christian stories. We need more Christians writing good stories." This is the same thing-- we don't need to give more Christian gifts; we Christians need to give good gifts. What can we expect from our Father in Heaven if we forget how to do that?

Matthew 7:11-- "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"


maggen said...

I love your blog... I always find stuff worth reading and thinking about :o) thanks. kudos. and all that jazz :o)

Isaac, The Rookie said...

Thanks, Maggen! I'm glad you're reading it. Be sure and tell me if I miss something, or if ideas come to you that you'd like to see me explore!