…Let each esteem other better than themselves.
— Philippians 2:3
Buying Christmas gifts for people when I was a child was one of my absolute favorite moments of the year. I cherished the privilege of giving, which had been taught to me by my parents. As I have spent time remembering my childhood Christmas experiences, one prominent memory that stands out in my mind is the first year my parents gave me money to spend on other family members for Christmas. That shift changed from what I would receive to what I could give to others.
With great seriousness, my father gave me $2 and instructed me that it was my budget to purchase gifts for the entire family. Ronda was older, so she got $5 for her Christmas shopping spree. Since the family included Daddy, Mother, Ronda, and Lori, it meant I had about 50 cents for each gift. Of course, it seems like a small amount of money by today’s standards, but when I was a boy, that was a substantial amount of money for my parents to give a small boy. Lori was too young to receive a Christmas budget, so it was up to Ronda and me to buy gifts for the family.
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To start the process, Ronda and I went to Woolworth’s department store and to TG&Y to make Christmas purchases with our “gargantuan” budgets. I wondered what I could buy for each member of the family with the budget that had been given to me. Dad had stressed the value of money, and his words had imparted such a seriousness in me that I held that money like it was holy. Even more, Dad impressed on me the need to purchase something that people needed and that they would appreciate.
So Ronda and I walked those shopping aisles seriously, contemplating what we should purchase with our budgets. I remember that first year, I bought mother a comb and a compact, a fish for dad’s aquarium, a small tube of lipstick for Ronda, and a doll brush for Lori. To my little mind, those seemed like real “needs” for each member of the family. And after all those expenditures were purchased, I still had a few cents left over — just enough to put a few cents into a gum machine to get a big, round piece of bubble gum!
I was so proud of the purchases that I had made. I carefully wrapped them to the best of my abilities, and then I placed them under the tree next to my homemade manger scene. I eagerly waited for Christmas morning when the family would unwrap the gifts I had carefully selected for them.
Yet on Christmas morning when we started ripping the wrapping off the boxes with our names written on them, I was overwhelmed with the gifts Daddy and Mother had bought for us. That year they bought me a fabulous robot that walked when I inserted the antenna into its head. Having gotten an idea of what items cost as I carefully spent my $2, I had a “wake-up” call when I looked at that robot. I realized that Dad and Mom’s gifts had really cost them something compared to the miniscule gifts Ronda and I had purchased for everyone else. That’s when it dawned on me that they had really gone out of their way and sacrificed for us. I knew they had needs, but they had denied themselves to purchase those gifts for us. For the first time, I understood the concept of making a sacrifice for others.
That event impacted my life. Now almost every year when it’s time for us to purchase Christmas gifts for people I love, I recall that early realization — and how my parents demonstrated to us that it is better to esteem others over ourselves (see Philippians 2:3). My parents denied themselves and sacrificed to purchase those gifts. They understood that although Philippians 2:3 is not a Christmas verse, the principle certainly applies to Christmas as well.
Thinking of others before we focus on taking care of our own needs and wants is how we’re supposed to live every day of the year. And certainly that is true for the Christmas season!
The word “esteem” is the Greek word hegeomai, which means to count, to consider, to regard, or to deem. The word “other” is allelous, and it means others — those besides yourself. The word “better” is huperecho, a compound of huper and echo. The word huper means significantly higher, and the word echo means to hold. When compounded, the new word means to deliberately hold someone in a very high regard. It carries the idea of having a superior view of a person — a feeling so fervent that it would definitely affect the way you deal with him or her. You would treat that person with the greatest care and the highest treatment. In fact, you would treat that individual better than yourself! Since money is a great revealer of the truth, it means even your use of money to benefit that person may reveal how highly you esteem him or her.
Mother needed new clothes; Dad really wanted a fishing boat; we needed new carpet and a new divan; and the list goes on and on. But when it came to Christmas, they showed how highly they loved and esteemed their children by denying themselves the things they needed so they could bless Ronda, Lori, and me.
This Christmas is your opportunity to esteem others better than yourself. Most of what you “think” you need can be delayed. Meanwhile, this holiday is your chance to really show your love to those who are dear to you. So rather than think of yourself this Christmas, put aside your own needs, and focus on the needs and desires of others. Not only will it deal with selfishness in you, but it will also teach those around you the great lesson of making sacrifices for others!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I see now that money is a great revealer of my heart and how I use it to bless others reveals the level of my esteem for them. I thank You for this encouragement. Instead of selfishly spending all my money on my own needs, I will pay attention to my opportunities to demonstrate selflessness for the sake of others. And help me remember that Jesus gave the greatest gift of all when He could have called 12 legions of angels to deliver Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He surrendered to the arresting forces and gave his life so we could receive salvation. How I thank God that Jesus esteemed us better than Himself!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that because the love of God rules my thoughts and actions, I deliberately live more focused on other’s needs than on my own needs, wants, and desires. The law of sowing and reaping works, and I am fully confident that as I sow into the needs and desires of others before I take care of my own desires, God will be faithful to multiply it back to me and will meet my needs in a far greater way than I could ever imagine!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Do you have memories of shopping for others on a very limited budget, but it gave you such joy to know that you could give to someone else that you loved so much?
- Even now, do you find joy in giving to others at Christmastime? What kind of joy does it give you to deny yourself and to spend your money on others instead of spending it on yourself?
- Christ gave Himself. He was the perfect Gift. But it cost Him everything to redeem us and to esteem us higher than Himself. When you think about the sacrifice Christ made to impart His life to us, how does it impact you?