Receiving a True Gift Does Not Create an Obligation
Now that the Christmas holiday is over and the gift giving has basically gone back to normal, I have a few observations. As simple as we try to make Christmas, it seems to get more complicated each year. To try and simplify things at our house this year we went back to the German tradition of opening all our gifts (which is basically one each) on Christmas Eve after we got home from our church service, then have a relaxing and calm Christmas Day.
Throughout the several weeks leading up to Christmas I started noticing a common and expected behavior repeated over several people and basically saying the same thing. When they were given a gift there was an expectation of something in return. This is not new of course. Many times when someone gives you something they expect something in return, or when you receive something, you feel obligated to return the gift with something of the same.
I am not sure where this "tradition" got its roots, perhaps it was just customary of the culture or something we have come to expect. Something with strings. If this is the government talking, yes, I would expect strings. Many times close friends or family put strings on things, but not always. To me, there is not much that follows the example Jesus gave us less than giving a gift with an expectation attached to it. God didn't do this to us did He?
One of the most famous verses in scripture is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son". If we briefly break apart that sentence, we see that God did what he did out of "love", and He "gave". The word gave or give appears in scripture so much that you can't even get out of Genesis without those two words being mentioned over 50 times. The example God gives us is to give out of love, and expect nothing in return.
So, if you received a gift from us this year, I do not want to receive an obligitory gift in return, and don't expect one either. If you feel like giving someone something, great, and if someone wants to give you a gift out of love, accept it for what it is and don't add the obligation or expectation of something in return. Personally I would rather receive nothing that a gift given in expectation rather than love.