But Peter said to him, “Your silver shall perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”
Several years ago, when our son participated in a Christmas program at his elementary school. It was more of a contemporary take on Christmas. There was no manger scene or traditional characters. The backdrop was at a mall and the theme was about gifts—God’s gift to us, our gifts to one another—kind of like this short Prayer Team unit. They sang a song that had a catchy tune (look up “I Offer Him My Life” on YouTube if you have four extra minutes) and was called “I Offer Him My Life.” Some of the lyrics included (be mindful, this is a song for little children):
Jesus came from heaven to earth
Left His throne for a humble birth,
No greater love ever seen,
No greater gift we’ve ever received.
What am I to bring?
What’s a gift fit for a King?
My alleluias and my praises ring,
His worship fills the sky,
No other gift is fit to bring a King,
So I offer Him my life.
I offer Him my life.
It kind of reminded me of the popular Christmas carol, “The Little Drummer Boy,” and his offering to play His drum for the Incarnated Christ, because that is what he had to offer. This song, “I Offer Him My Life” takes it a step further. It doesn’t offer God a representation of what we have (i.e. the song of the drummer boy, the gifts of the Magi), it offers Him ALL of what we have.
Many of us are familiar with the story of the widow’s penny, told in the Gospel of Luke 21. Many people were gathered in the temple and casting money into the treasury. A widow came and put in two pennies. And the temple leadership laughed at her offering. Jesus told them that her offering was worth more than theirs because the two pennies was all that she had. They had put in from their excess. She had put in everything. You might say that God is not interested in the amount we put in, but the effort, the percentage we give of what we have. So 100% of two pennies is worth more than 10% of millions of dollars in the eyes of God.
There is just over a week left to figure out what we are going to give to the people around us for Christmas. God is telling us that we don’t have to think hard about what to give to Him. He wants us, He wants all of us, He wants our hearts. Why do we say that God wants out hearts, and not our brains or our hands or our feet? The reason is because the most critical part of the human body is the heart. If the heart doesn’t beat, nothing else works. Blood circulates to all parts of the human body to keep it functioning and the heart is what pumps the blood. Our hearts beat every second. Our brains are not thinking when we are sleeping, our hands are not working, our feet are not walking. But our heart is doing its job at all times.
If we have a heart that has been given to God, then our heart beats in time with God. Our heart gets in sync with Him, ideally all the time. Our hearts cannot take off any time without beating. If they do, we die. And ideally we cannot, or won’t, take off any time that our heart beats in sync with God, because when we do, we become spiritually dead.
Think deeply and philosophically on this question: What is the thing that you do most in your life? The answer is “we breathe.” No life lasts without breathing. That’s the thing we do the most. You might say it’s our favorite thing. After all, what do you enjoy doing more than breathing? Nothing. Because without breathing, you can do nothing!
Psalm 150 says “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.” Some translations say “let every breath praise the Lord.” What if we answered the above question, “what is the thing that you do most in your life?” and we answered “breathe with God.” What if we saw “breathing in sync with God” as our favorite thing? What if we saw “breathing in sync with God” to be as essential as breathing, that without it we could do nothing?!
Our hands are not always at work. Same with our mouths, our eyes, our ears and much of us. When we sleep they are at rest. That’s why God wants our hearts, because they never rest. And God wants us at all times and in all places. Because He offer Himself to us at all times and in all places. He is the one who offers the perfect gift from Above. If we want to offer the perfect gift from below, it is to offer Him our hearts. So, here is the philosophical question to reflect on in your own soul, “How much of my heart, how much of my life am I willing to give to God?” Do we offer some, but keep some for ourselves? Do we intentionally scheduled time for sinful activities that take us away from God? What percentage of our time and effort is spent on these?
The Divine Liturgy (and other services) includes a petition that sets a pretty high bar in terms of what we offer to God—it says “Let us commit ourselves and one another and our WHOLE LIFE to Christ our God.” That is the ideal. How close to that are we willing to strive for?
Lord, thank You for offering Your life for us, for me. Thank You for the gift of a heart that beats so that my body can do all the things it does. Help me to offer more of my heart to You, and with it my breath, my hands, my feet, my thoughts and my actions. I know that there is nothing I can possibly give to You other than myself. May I do that with joy, this Christmas season and always!
In this season of gift giving, think about how much of your heart and your life you are willing to give to God, and what that means regarding things/behaviors that need to be modified or changed.