On the Friday night of Teacher Appreciation Week, I was staring at my balloon bouquet and a collection of cards and gifts strewn about the floor of my living room. For someone like me, who has a hard time receiving and feeling love, having numerous gifts poured out on me in a short period of time did something for me. I felt like this outpouring of love and generosity pushed love into me. Believing that people actually love me became a little bit easier.
I have never been so appreciated through gifts as I have at this school. Before coming to Calvin, I worked with refugee and immigrant children at Escondido High School. There, I received, on average, one gift per year. Prior to that, I worked with poor students in Los Angeles. At both schools, I had a contingent of students who experienced food insecurity. They may have appreciated me, but they certainly didn’t have the means to show it through gifts. In contrast, many students at Calvin have the means, and they choose to pour them out on others in love.
I received many generous gifts during Teacher Appreciation Week, but do you know what my favorite gifts were? They were the “smallest” ones. As I opened the presents and cards in a large gift basket on Friday morning during my first-grade class, I spotted two quarters hanging out at the bottom. Charlie* pointed to them and proudly announced, “Those are from me!” He was elated to give! Later, Lucy* walked over to my desk and explained, “I didn’t get you a gift, but I have a joke.”
These dear souls were so excited to give, to the point where they searched the recesses of their pockets and brain to present a gift to me. As a result, I was not most touched by the $50 gift cards in my basket (although I love those!), but by 50 cents and a joke. Why? Because those students’ desire to give ran so deep. Their hearts gave in great love.
If I–a mere human–was more impacted by the smallest gifts than by the more illustrious ones, imagine how God views the gifts we give Him. He’s not impressed by the most expensive gift or the biggest sacrifice. He’s most impressed by a heart that gives in love.
In Isaiah 1, the Lord denounces people who were bringing the “correct” gifts because they did so without loving God:
“The multitude of your sacrifices–
What are they to me?” says the LORD,
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. …
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!”
Yet, in Luke 21, Jesus commends a poor widow for placing a “worthless” offering into the temple treasury. In giving all she had to live on, she revealed a heart that worshiped and trusted God.
How comforting to know that God doesn’t focus on the size of our gift but on the size of the heart behind it!
When I approach God, may I offer Him my heart with the same degree of eagerness that I saw on the faces of my students who presented me with two quarters and a joke.
*Names have been changed.