The Right Sense of Giving

If the self-sacrifice and giving which characterized Christ Jesus provided the example which led to the exchanging of gifts at Christmas time, it is evident that there has been a sad lowering of thought in connection with Christmas giving. Mary Baker Eddy, in a letter which appeared in the New York World in 1905, spoke on this subject in a helpful and illuminating way. In the opening paragraph she said (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 259): "Certain occasions, considered either collectively or individually and observed properly, tend to give the activity of man infinite scope; but mere merry-making or needless gift-giving is not that in which human capacities find the most appropriate and proper exercise."

Mrs. Eddy's life and words show that she was a consistent advocate of sharing good with others. She had the right sense of giving, even as had Paul, who, in his epistle to the Christians in Corinth, counseled that men should give, "not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver." Christ Jesus had previously commended the grateful thought and act of a widow whose donation had been but two mites. Indeed, he said that she had given more than all the rich men. Evidently Jesus' concept of giving differed from that held by others, inasmuch as he measured one's gift in the scales of thought instead of the balances of the money-changers.

Doubtless both the Master and the apostle were familiar with the wise counsel given in Ecclesiastes, "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." Considered literally, the casting of bread, as such, upon the water does not appear to be a sensible way to obtain a return, much less an increase. New and helpful light is shed upon this Scriptural passage by the understanding that the word here translated "bread" also means "grain." The Egyptians employed the same word for both bread and grain. At the seasons of the year when the river Nile overflowed its banks, and in receding left rich alluvial soil behind, the Egyptians sowed their grain before the floodwaters had completely receded. Thus they reaped an earlier and more abundant crop. In other words, they cast their bread or grain upon the waters, and verily they found it "after many days."

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True Witnesses
December 24, 1938

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