Are Some Gifts “More Christian” Than Others?

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Two women exchanging gift over table, close-up of hands, out of focus woman in background

I was thinking about various Christmas presents I’ve received (and given) over the years. And I’m thinking there’s a sense in which some of them are “more Christian” than others.

Here’s what I’m not talking about. I’m not talking about coffee mugs with a Bible verse written on them. And I’m not talking about a framed copy of the “Footprints” poem. Not that there’s anything wrong with such gifts. But there’s another sense in which a gift can move us in a distinctly Christian direction.

In previous posts on this blog, I’ve commented that the Christian understanding of the Common Good is that the good things from God are to be sought together and received together. And I’ve commented that a good rule of thumb for business ethics is to ensure that our practices are a win-win for all parties. The general theme undergirding all of these matters is a Trinitarian one: we are supposed to relate to one another in loving, interdependent ways.

So, can some Christian gifts be “more Christian” than others? Well, there’s a sense in which the answer is “yes” if the gift is something I enjoy as I share it with others.

I think about certain kinds of gifts I’ve received over the years: theater tickets for my wife and I to use together; craft projects for my children and I to do together; fancy, reusable plastic plates to use for the children’s clubs that meet in our home each week. All of these gifts have allowed me to have good experiences with others.

All this is not to say there’s anything wrong with giving socks or jewelry or a fountain pen or anything else that is enjoyed in isolation. Sometimes those gifts are needed and entirely appropriate.

Nevertheless, the next time I’m stuck not knowing what to give someone, I think I’ll try to find something the person can enjoy with someone else. Experience tells me that shared memories are the ones that are most meaningful. And a theology of the Trinity tells me that any gift that another person uses interdependently with others is actually a profoundly Christian one.

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Kevin Kinghorn serves as editor of the Faith and Work Collective blog. He is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Asbury Theological Seminary. His undergraduate work (Emory) was in economics and political science. His graduate work (Asbury; Yale; Oxford) and current teaching has focused on topics within philosophy of religion and moral philosophy. He lives in Mt. Sterling, KY, where he and his wife Barbara work toward community transformation, providing music and art opportunities for children.

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