DAY 12: The Heart of the Matter


“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

Hosea 6:6

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:10

Several weeks ago, while spending the day with a friend, we found an interesting little craft shop that we perused for quite some time. There were many unique Christmas decorations, homemade gifts and gadgets that you can’t find just anywhere. I snagged a few small things for stocking stuffers, but my friend found this ridiculous little kitchen gadget used for cleaning your microwave. In a shop full of beautiful, decorative and desirable things, I thought it was an interesting choice. She proudly held her item up and commented that it would be perfect for her family’s white elephant gift exchange that they do every year.

Knowing this gadget was to be a white elephant gift, changed my perspective. It was neon colored and kind of silly, but for someone who doesn’t stay on top of keeping their microwave clean, this could be a useful tool.

Isn’t that the best case scenario with a white elephant gift? I always hope that I walk away with either a gift card (there’s usually one or two right?) or something that, while entertaining, could still be useful to me. Otherwise, it’ll just end up being thrown away or saved as my next white elephant gift.

The funny thing about gag gifts is they tend to be the ones wrapped most meticulously. They look beautiful on the outside and tend to invoke excitement and wonder. Even when you suspect it’s something quite useless on the inside, it’s difficult to resist choosing the present with the big, perfectly shaped bow, or coordinating paper and ribbon. Some people are smart enough to reach for the crumpled brown bag or lumpy misshapen packages, as those tend to hold the true treasures, but I tend to fall for the glitz and glam and most often am disappointed with something of little to no value.

Things are not always as they appear.

Several hundred years before the birth of Jesus, God began to speak to Israel about this very topic. The Israelites appeared on the outside to be living very devout, faithful lives, but God saw the truth of their hearts and knew how far they were from Him. There were many religious responsibilities that they were faithful to keep, but who they were on the inside was not matching their actions, and was not pleasing to God.

Jesus’ life and ministry provided a living, breathing example of what true relationship with God looks like. Jesus’ life was marked by prayer, love and compassion for others and perfect obedience to His father. Christ came to not only free humanity from the hold that sin and death had on us, but also to teach us how to live lives that are of true value to the Lord.

There is something about us as humans that seems to want to focus on the outward presentation of our faith: church attendance, generosity, all the things that make us a “good person”. Jesus models for us with His life the importance of the inward spiritual life bringing honor and glory to God, and value to His kingdom.

As we go about celebrating the birth of Jesus in these next several weeks, may we be faithful to allow the purity of His life to shape ours. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal one way that we’re focusing on outward appearances and neglecting inward transformation. May this Christmas season be a time of marked change in our lives that lead fuller, vibrant relationships with the Lord and lives that bring great pleasure to Him.

Daily Challenge:

Have you ever fallen for something based on its outward appearance?


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