You Can't Out-Give God
A sermon based on 1 Samuel 2:18-20,26
Sunday, December 27, 2015 – Christmas 1C
So did you get some good gifts this Christmas? Did you get better gifts than you gave? I had a friend who was always competing with his brother, Todd, every Christmas to see who could give the better gift. He wanted to give Todd the better gift between the two of them just once. But it seemed he never could. When he got Todd a $20 gift card, Todd got him a $50 gift card. He got Todd a new sweater. Todd got him a new sweater and new jeans. He got Todd a new game system. Todd just happened to get him a game system and 5 games. He got Todd a brand new mountain bike. Todd got him a used car. Okay, so I don't really know what exactly they got each other, but I do know that my friend eventually gave up trying to give Todd the better gift, saying, "You just can't out-give Todd."
This morning we learn a similar lesson: that you just can't out-give God. No matter what we give to him, it's nothing compared to what he's given to us, what he still gives to us, what he promises he will give.
Hannah received a great gift from God—she received the baby boy she had longed for. So Hannah offered her thanks to God—a huge thank you gift! She gave that son to the Lord that he might serve God in his tabernacle. Hannah gave a great thank you gift, but God's gift was still greater. He gave Hannah a Savior.
God has given us great gifts too. And we give our thanks to him. But we know that our gifts to him pale in comparison to his greater gifts. We cannot out-give God.
Our text for consideration this morning is from 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26…
18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, "May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord." Then they would go home…
26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men.
I. God's Great Gifts to Us
Not counting the spiritual gifts that God gives, what's the best gift you've ever received from someone? Does that take you a minute to figure out as you think of all the gifts you've received? Did you think of a game system? A new vehicle? Maybe you thought of your engagement ring? Well, for Hannah, that question would have been an easy one to answer. The best gift she ever received, was a son.
Hannah was in a difficult situation. Her husband was married to another woman. He had two wives. The other wife had children—at least four of them because the Bible says she had sons (plural) and daughters (plural). But Hannah had none. She was barren. And though her husband loved her dearly, his other wife kept taunting here and provoking her. It nearly drove Hannah mad. What she wanted more than anything was a child of her own and she prayed to God to give her a son.
And God finally gave her what she prayed for. Hannah became pregnant and she had a son. She named him Samuel, which means, "heard by God" because she knew that God had heard her prayer! And that boy grew "in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men." What a great gift God had given to Hannah.
And yet, the greatest gift Hannah received wasn't really Samuel. It was a son, but not that one. The best gift Hannah received was a son that wouldn't be born for another thousand years—her Savior from sin. Year after year Hannah and her husband would go up to the temple to offer sacrifices to God—sacrifices that reminded them of what that Savior would do: that he would be a sacrifice for them to pay for their sins.
What is the greatest that God has given to you? It's a son. Even if you don't have any boys, even if you have no children, even if you're still a child yourself—still, the greatest gift that God has given to you is a son—his own Son. God send his Son to take on human flesh, to be born as a baby. And he "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52)
And as true man, he lived under God's law and kept it perfectly in our place, as a child, as a teen, as a young man. He never sinned. And he gives us credit for that perfection as if we had always done the right thing, the selfless thing, the thing that was pleasing to God—as if we only ever looked at what was in the best interest of others, as if were only eager to give, never take.
And as true man, Jesus was able to die. God was able to die on a cross to pay for our sin because he took on human flesh. And by his death he paid the penalty for every sin we've ever committed: for every time we've been more concerned with what gifts we get instead of what gifts we could give, for every time we've wondered how we might be blessed instead of how we might be a blessing to others. So we are forgiven, sinless and holy, at peace with God, with reservations in heaven, heirs of all the riches it has to offer—and this is all because of that Son that God gave us at Christmas! What great gifts God has given to us!
When Hannah saw all that God had done for her, she wanted to thank God for his gifts. She wanted to give him something big. She didn't want to out-give God or out do him. She just wanted to show her appreciation. And so do we…
II. Our Gifts of Thanks to God
What's the biggest gift you could think to give? That you personally might give to someone else? Would it be a gift that cost all you have in your savings account? Would it be all of your possessions—your house, your vehicles, your toys? Would it be your life as you offer an indefinite number of decades in servitude to another? I think the greatest gift that I could ever think to offer wouldn't be my life, but that of my child.
That was the biggest gift that Hannah could think to offer to God in thanks for all he'd given to her. So Hannah sacrificed her son to God—her one and only Son—the one she'd yearned for for so long. The son that God gave an answer to her fervent prayer, she now gave back to him.
She didn't offer him on an altar. She knew human sacrifice was horribly wrong. But she did give up her son to the Lord, in service to him. She sent him off to boarding school—to the seminary if you will. She sent him away to live at the house of the Lord under the guardianship of Eli. She said, "I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." (1 Samuel 1:27-28)
But as great as her gift was to God, she still couldn't out-give him. God blessed Hannah with three more sons and two daughters after Samuel. (1 Samuel 2:21) And even if he hadn't given her these five children, he gave her his own Son in Jesus. Hannah gave a big gift, but what God gave was bigger. And Hannah knew that as great as her gift to God was, she didn't earn or deserve God's favor and that she couldn't out give God.
And the same is true of us. We too give our greatest gifts to God. We give our money to the offering plate to carry out the work done in this house of the Lord. We give our money as we manage the gifts God gives not just asking, "What blessings can I get with this?" but, "How can I bless others with this?" We give ourselves as we labor for the Lord at this place, serving at church. We give ourselves as we labor for the Lord looking for ways to serve others at school, at work, and at home. And maybe some of us will even sacrifice our children and send them away to school where they will train to serve in the house of the Lord as pastors, teachers, or staff ministers.
And as big as these gifts may be, we're eager to give our very best gifts to God—whatever they may be—in thanks to him for his gifts to us. And we do it not to earn God's favor or to pay him back or to try to out-give God. For we know that even if were to give everything we own, our lives, and our children's lives, it still wouldn't be anything compared to what he has given us. We can't out-give God.
It's like the child who receives a $100 Lego set for Christmas and in thanks to mom and dad colors them a nice picture. The expression of gratitude means a lot to mom and dad, but you know which gift has the greater monetary value.
Likewise, our gifts of thanks to god are beautiful to him when we give them knowing that his gifts are always bigger, when we give them in thanks for the forgiveness, life, and salvation, for the peace with God, for the riches of heaven that are all ours through his gift of his own Son. Nothing we give can ever compare to the value of what he's given us first.
My friend might someday be able to out-give Todd. But we know that we can't ever out-give God. So we gladly and eagerly give all we have in thanks to him: our time in service to God by serving others, our dollars as we give generously to support his work, ourselves in lives of praise to him. We gladly give our all in thanks to him who gave us so much more.
I hope you're thankful for the presents you received this Christmas. But I hope you're so much more thankful for the presents you received that first Christmas and that first Good Friday, so that you are eager to give back to God every day in thanks to him. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.