Since the early centuries of the Church, Christians have thought of giving and receiving gifts as a fitting way to celebrate the Incarnation. The logic is simple: God so loved the world that he gave; so should we.

But this simple practice embodies not only a profound theology, but a profound vision of community.

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Christians sometimes think the Bible replaced these circles of exchange with a straight line of altruistic giving. Paul offers something more interesting. In the church, gifts still move in a circle, but the circle expands infinitely because God begins the giving by giving his Son, manna from heaven. If the Corinthians receive the charis of God rightly, they will follow Jesus’ example of becoming poor to make others rich. Bearing the imprint of Jesus’ self-offering is what receiving grace means.

Peter Leithart