Did you grow up singing the Doxology every Sunday in church? Did it help you be thoughtful and thankful in your worship?
In many liturgical churches, the Doxology is sung immediately prior to the offertory. In essence, we remind ourselves to “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow” before we return our gifts to him.
Whether the singing of the Doxology feels natural or arcane to you doesn’t really matter. The truth behind it demonstrates an important gratitude principle: gratefulness flows most easily when someone does something special, unexpected, and undeserved for us. And the corollary: gift-giving flows most naturally from a grateful life.
Secrets of Thoughtful Gift-Giving
I have three friends who are very good at gift-giving who showcase several ways we can all learn to give better gifts. As you hear these stories, think about people you know who are great gift-givers.
1: Thoughtfully study the person.
My friends at Right Hand Events always send thoughtful gifts. We’ve worked together extensively for nearly a decade, so you could say they know me well. For example, they named a star for my father when he passed away. They also gave me a saxophone statue for a recent birthday. And they gave me my first Kansas City Chiefs ballcap when the Chiefs were first starting to emerge as Super Bowl contenders a few years ago. Their gifts flowed from a unique study of me.
2: Create a thoughtful and undeserved experience.
John Ruhlin, the author of Giftology, sent me a totally unexpected gift that was an experience to open. Since I wasn’t looking for it, I opened the box wondering who it was from and what it was. There were two beautifully wrapped boxes, and they seemed luxurious. One box contained his book—packaged to feel like a precious jewel. What a great metaphor: knowledge is more precious than gold and silver! The second box contained a set of engraved knives designed just for me. I had done nothing to deserve these gifts, and it made me feel amazing. I’ll never forget the experience of opening them.
3: Make the person feel seen.
On my birthday, my team coordinated a surprise with my wife. They wanted her to capture me opening the gift on video. With heightened expectations, I opened the box to discover another box. I feared this was one of those Russian nesting box gags. But when I opened the second box, I was undone. As music played, paper butterflies started to fly out of the box. In the middle of the box sat a cupcake. When I lifted out the cake, I discovered four pictures of me playing the saxophone. (In case you didn’t know, I play jazz saxophone semi-professionally). There was also a very thoughtful note included.
In this case, the team created an experience that uniquely spoke to me on many levels. The gift will sit on my shelf for years reminding me of their thoughtfulness.
Thoughtfulness begets thankfulness.
Let me ask you a question. Do you think I had a hard time showing gratitude to these people?
Of course not. On day 83, Dr. Paul White noted that gift-giving is the most neglected language of appreciation. Most of us don’t spend very long thinking about gifts and just send the same thing to everyone.
I understand it’s hard to do this at scale. I remember receiving frozen dinners from one company where I worked at Christmas. They came from one of the subsidiaries, and it felt more like a promotional gimmick than a gift.
God gives perfectly thoughtful gifts.
Jesus pointed out that we already know how to give good gifts to our children. He asked,
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him”(Matthew 7:9–11 NLT).
So, if my friends know how to give thoughtful, unexpected, memorable gifts, wouldn’t it make sense that God can do so much more? In fact, it seems to me that God is our model for giving perfect gifts.
In Psalm 139, we explored that God made us fearfully and wonderfully. He knows every cell, hair, and thought that makes us who we are. He designed us with spiritual gifts and natural talents and gave us unique experiences and perspectives. And he knows precisely what is happening in our lives.
Just last week, I saw God knit together three conversations that provided an unexpected gift of insight, connection, and hope. Through a conversation with a friend, I realized I needed to make some changes to my finances. Four hours later, I prepared to interview my friend, Ray Edwards, who just released a new book called Permission to Prosper. Through reading Ray’s book and conducting the interview, I realized God ordained that book and that interview for that exact moment. A third conversation started that night that further confirmed God’s deep love for me.
You might be thinking, “Phil, that doesn’t sound like a gift.” It’s true that God didn’t give me a new Jeep or a large financial gift, but this gift is more meaningful to me right now. The gift of love, acceptance, insight, and hope is tremendously powerful.
God gave the ultimate gift.
God’s ultimate gift could only be given one time, but the way we each receive it is deeply personal. What is it?
God’s gift of Jesus as the substitute for our salvation. We each deserve death as the penalty for our unique and personal list of sins. It’s a death that only we can die because no one else has committed the sins we have. But since Jesus lived a perfect life, God accepts Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of each one of us.
As Paul said in Romans 6:10, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.”
Christ’s death does not provide a generic “get out of jail free” card. Instead, Jesus gave his life to personally invite us to be adopted by the Father, clothed with a robe designed just for us, and to have our name written in his Book of Life.
My salvation is my most treasured gift, but I find I often shove it into the closet of my mind as I think about more pressing issues. Thankfully, God never neglects his gifts and keeps showering them upon me when I least expect or deserve them.
Find someone today for whom you can give a personal gift. Take time to do it thoughtfully and then watch their response.
Lord, I thank you for giving me eternal life, enduring hope, and unexpected joy. I particularly praise you for sending Jesus as the perfect gift, my salvation. I pray you would fill me with gratitude today and show me how to give perfect gifts to others as I reflect your grace. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.