IT PAYS TO KNOW: Better to Give Than to Receive

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Judd new 3.14By JUDD MATSUNAGA, Esq.

Every year, we see them in Christmas cards, nativity scenes and Christmas pageants — the Three Wise Men: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Although the film contains themes of religious satire that were controversial back in 1979, I’ve got to admit that parts of Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” gave me a good, hearty chuckle. It tells the story of a young Jewish man, i.e., Brian Cohen, who is born on the same day as, and next door to, Jesus Christ.

Thinking Brian to be the newborn King of the Jews, the three wise men mistakenly walk into the wrong house and offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Brian’s mom takes the gifts and pushes them out the door saying, “Well, um, if you’re dropping by again, do pop in. And thanks a lot for the gold and frankincense, er, but don’t worry too much about the myrrh next time. All right? Thank you. Good-bye.”

Much like Brian’s mom, I use to think, “I can understand the gold, but the frankincense and myrrh??? What strange gifts to give to a baby.” I didn’t realize the significance of the gifts. How about you? Perhaps you’ve never really given it any real thought, thinking, “It’s just part of the Christmas story.”

Well, here it is: They gave Him gold because they recognized it was a proper gift for a king. The New Testament makes it clear (both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke) that Jesus was of royal lineage, a direct descendant of King David. Also, the gift of gold to the Christ child was symbolic of His divinity — God in flesh.

They gave him frankincense, which is a fragrant resin burned like incense, symbolizing prayer rising to the heavens, because that is what a high priest used when he went into the temple to represent the people before God. They gave Him myrrh, which also is a fragrant resin made from tree sap used in burials, because they recognized that this King would die for the world.

Christmas is a time of giving, and I’ve found it to be true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. If you are like Mrs. Matsunaga, you can’t wait to give your gifts. When you get a present for someone, you want to see the joy he or she has in receiving it.

But what can you give to God? What do you give to God, who has everything? What does God want from us?

One well-known minister wrote, “The greatest gift you can give to God this year is yourself. The greatest gift you can give to God is to say, ‘Lord, I give You my life. I give You my talents. I give You my abilities. I give You my dreams. I give You my future. I give You my weaknesses. I offer myself to You. Here is my gift to You.’”

“Say Judd, are you saying I should move to Africa and become a missionary?” No, absolutely not (unless God specifically told you to). Here’s something I found that might help. It’s from the Christian Post (Dec. 28, 2013), by Greg Laurie, award-winning author and senior pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside:

As we enter into a new year, here is something to remember: When it’s all said and done, we have three things we can offer God – our treasure, our talent, and our time. Each of these is given to us by God, and each of them should be given back in generous portions.

First, there is our treasure. I urge you to commit yourself to give faithfully and generously to the Lord in this coming year. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).

But it works the other way too: Where we put our treasures, our heart will follow. Do you want your heart to be in the things of God? Then put your treasures in the things of God! Develop a vested interest in God’s kingdom.

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

In other words, Jesus is saying that it is wrong to put all of our hope in earthly treasures with nothing waiting for us on the other side. Why? Because these earthly treasures simply will not last.

When you play Monopoly, it’s fun to put up hotels and collect money and try to win. But once the game is over, that Monopoly money isn’t worth anything. You can’t go down to the car dealer, pull out those orange bills, and buy a new car. Monopoly money can’t do a thing for you in the real world.

When we get to heaven, all we have on earth will have no value if we do not invest it properly. You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead. How? By investing in the work of the kingdom of God.

The second thing we can give to God is our talent. God has gifted each believer in different ways. Everyone has something to offer for the work of the kingdom. “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us different work to do” (Romans 12:4).

Finally, there is our time. Let’s say that one day your phone rang and it was the president of the bank that you use. He told you that an anonymous donor who loved you very much had decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your bank account each and every morning. At first, maybe that didn’t seem like a lot.

But then you figured out that it was $864 a day. At seven days a week and 52 weeks a year, those pennies add up to almost $315,000 each year! But the bank president added one thing: “The anonymous giver said you must spend all of the money on the day you receive it! No balance will be carried over to the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use! Remember, what you don’t spend is lost.”

That may sound like fantasy, but here’s the reality: Every morning, Someone who loves you very much deposits into your “bank of time” 86,400 seconds, which represent 1,440 minutes, which of course equals 24 hours each and every day. God gives you that much to use each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the next day.

There is no such thing as a 27-hour day. It’s called time, and you can’t escape it. Time is ticking away right now. The Bible tells us to “redeem the time” – to make sacred and wise use of every opportunity.

“But Judd, how do I give back time?” Perhaps the best way we can give back our time to God is to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving. The Bible says, “Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High” (Psalm 50:14). God wants our thanksgiving.

This Christmas season, try keeping a record of how many times we complain to God about things that we don’t like, things that have gone wrong. And then keep another record on how many times we stop to just thank God for all that we have. I think that if we would really be honest, we would be amazed at how much complaining we do and how little thanks we give.

Let’s try to change that this coming year.

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Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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