We all know about the poor. We see commercials of them, with their round and distended bellies, empty of food. We see pictures of them, living among filth, no clean water in sight. We even see them, in person, pushing their shopping carts and making their "beds" on the streets at night. Should this move us? Yes! Does it move me? Sometimes... sadly, never enough. But sometimes. Is Christmas the time for it to move me the most? Maybe, but I don't think so. Is it wrong that this Thursday I intend to go to the stores and "blow" my hard earned cash on "stuff" for my spouse and kids, when all someone else wants is a clean glass of water? When I put it like that, it sure seems terribly wrong.
Well, I've pondered this a lot, and have been able to see all of my sweet friends on facebook posting blogs who are pondering the same thoughts, only to come up with a different conclusion for themselves. They plan to teach their children about "right" or "real" giving. Where the need is so great, the gift can actually give physical life to another. They are buying things like goats, or seeds, instead of bouncing balls and Barbie dolls.
So again, why am I not jumping on this very well-meaning and actually life giving band wagon?! Well, because Mary broke an expensive and very large jar of perfume on Jesus' feet. She "wasted" perfume that could have been sold, and the money given to those in great need. She did this out of love for her Savior. Judas Iscariot (the betrayer) was not pleased. He even mentions the poor. And Jesus says that "the poor we will always have" and then He tells them that they won't always have Him. You see, we will not always have these moments, the ones where our children are here, living under our roof, being cared for and loved on by us. I am suggesting that these memories we make together during times of celebration can and even should include a bit of extravagance, like when the prodigal son returned home. I am suggesting that giving someone a gift can and is a way to show love to your "neighbor". I am suggesting, that there is always going to be those in need, and they will always need our help. I am suggesting that we should give to the poor all the rest of the year. But at Christmas I want to put that aside for just a little while.
Maybe it's because my family does things differently the rest of the year, that I'm feeling this way. We don't buy ourselves or our children things that we want, or even things that we need. (And by need I don't mean food water and shelter, but need based on an American standard of living). We don't take vacations, we rarely, if ever, go out to eat, we clean our own house, I almost never get my hair done or a pedicure, my kids go without new underwear, socks, books, toys, and clothes all year round. Sometimes, the girls will save up by working for allowance, and buy something they want. But for the most part, birthdays and Christmas are it for our yearly spoil. Do I fault my dear Christian brothers and sisters for spending money on these things all year round? Do I write blogs rebuking them for living it up, while people are dying? No. I don't. Should I? Maybe... but I don't think so. I think that as long as you are not accruing debt, and you are still giving generously when and where you can, you should enjoy the blessings God has given you.
And about this giving generously. It should include three principles. It should be done cheerfully, it should be done for God's glory alone, and it should be done anonymously. When you give, and it is out of obligation, and not out of joy, God would rather you didn't give at all. When you give, in order to look good, or to make someone's life easier rather than for God's glory alone, it is in vain. When you give and tell about it, you are paid in full your blessings. The praise of man is all that you will receive from that gift. And it takes away from the gift completely. I can tell you, first hand, there is very little joy in receiving charity, unless it is done anonymously. Also, when you tell about the wonderful thing you are doing, others will compare themselves to you, and they will either come out ahead or behind. Either way, the focus is on man and not God.
It seems to me that holidays were created by God and given to man to serve a purpose. And I don't believe it was to mope and fuss about the woes of this fallen world, of which of there are many. That purpose, I believe, was and is to celebrate. Yes! Celebrate the babe in the manger! Yes! Celebrate your Salvation, given you by God's grace and mercy in the death and resurrection of that very same babe! But I say live it up! Have a feast! Emulate the great wedding banquet in heaven! Buy your loved ones something that you normally wouldn't, or that you normally would, but this time wrap it up and put a bow on it. And then, wake up tomorrow, and put those in the margins of society, back on your heart. And pray about how you can help and how you can give. And then do it. Because as Christ Himself said, "the poor we will always have."
Merry Christmas my dear sweet readers. May the King of kings bless you this day and everyday. May He alone be glorified in all things and through all things. And may this post bring you freedom from condemnation, and may it return the joy that possibly has been lost to you by the good intentions of others.