There’s an aspect to Contemporary Christmas celebrations that I struggle with annually, and this year it’s at its worst (for me). Call me a Grinch, but I know that many of you can relate. So please permit me to share a few of these struggles with you, and before you make a quick judgment on this, please read through to the end.
My struggle is about giving to those who already “have it all”, when I know of others with great needs…
Global wealth inequality has continued to grow since 2008, and by the end of last year (2015), it had finally reached the point where the top 1% of the world’s population amassed 50% of the world’s wealth – and before I disregard myself from that global wealth pyramid, I’m also told that making $100,000 per family puts one in the top 7.4% of the population, and making over $10,000 puts me in the top 21%!
Maybe that strikes me more now after watching a PBC documentary last night on the plight of the world’s refugees coming out of the Syria and as far as Gambia, Africa, seeking peace and sustenance in Europe. I think of those traveling with little more than a knapsack, while I live in luxury, comparatively.
We have various kinds of insurance to protect that wealth, while millions of others don’t know where their next meal will come from. Then at Christmas, when we celebrate the Son of God who left the honor and treasures of heaven to live among the poor, and with the same breath give toys to kids who may not appreciate it, and goodies with no nutritional benefit. I know there are valid rebuttals to this; I’m just struggling… Perhaps this is the passage I struggle with the most:
1 John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
Believe me, My wife and I have been moved and inspired by the generosity at our church. And we gratefully accept gifts that enable us to go on a “date night” or something like that. We shouldn’t condemn the wealthy by nature of the fact that their wealth exceeds others, necessarily. God often blesses His people beyond measure, in order to BE a blessing to others, according to the measure of faith given to them. That being said, there are also numerous warnings attached to our wealth, and we will also be held accountable for what we do with what we’ve been given. (Luke 12:48b)
Yes, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me (Jesus in Matthew 26:11) and "The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast." (Matthew 9:15) I believe our time of fasting is NOW, looking ahead to being reunified with the Bridegroom at the wedding feast.
There are countless non-profits clamoring for our money; many of which are worthwhile. My goal in 2017, is to limit my reoccurring monthly bills to the extent that, after giving 10% to my church (who I trust to use God’s resources wisely), I can give as much as I can away to reputable groups (like World Vision, World Venture, & Compassion International), who can get these resources to those who need it most. Many of us don’t take stock of all we’ve been given by God, so that we can give all we got!
This also relates to the Gospel. Sometimes we spend all of our resources (time, salvation message, etc), on other Christians, when we should be loving those who don’t know him! Begin, with hospitality, using the resources God has given you to love & share with your family & neighbors in Jesus’ Name!
I think of Francis Chan’s example (I’m paraphrasing), “Even though God promises to take care of us, what IF I accidently ‘gave too much’ and God somehow ‘forgot’ to meet my needs, and I die… what have I got to lose? I get to stand before Him in heaven, and say, ‘Oops, I took your commandments too seriously?’”.
At the end of my life, I don’t want to be found clutching onto anyTHING, even if I could take it with me! If heaven is essentially worshipping our Creator & Savior for eternity, I’d better get used to that NOW, especially if that means holding loosely onto all other things.
In 2017, I am waiting for my Master’s Words, not to be, “You wicked, lazy servant!”, but rather, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23, 26)