The end of the year is often a time when people donate time and money to various charities and other non-profits. Some include giving as part of their Christmas celebration. Every year we receive several catalogs allowing us to donate livestock, school and medical supplies, and Bible study materials to poor families, giving them a leg up in becoming self-sustaining.
All this giving is a good thing. God tells us to give throughout the Bible, and we should do so. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), and we should give with love and generosity. In return, we find joy in the mere act of making someone else’s life better. If you’ve ever watched your kids open their presents on Christmas morning, you realize the truth of Jesus’ statement, “It’s more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).
Our country has been pounded—fires to the left of us, hurricanes to the right. This is nothing new, although having so many disasters happen at the same time sure makes it seem that way. As a Christian, my initial response is, how can I help?
The first thing we can do is pray. For one, prayer is something we can do right away, and keep on doing as long as the situation demands. And two, prayer releases God’s power and resources—so much more than ours! Ask God how He would like you to pray for these things. Our first inclination is usually to pray the problems away, but God may have something different in mind. (That’s a topic for another post someday.)
Since January, six thousand people—Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, have been brutally murdered by ISIS, the radical Sunni Muslim terrorist group that is carving an Islamic state out of northern Iraq and Syria. It’s incredibly painful to read the reports of the atrocities being committed. If you’ve ever wondered if Satan is real, read a few of these news items:
Summer is a great time of year. Backyard barbecues, running through the sprinklers, feeling warm breezes on bare arms and legs—most people claim summer as their favorite time of year. But if you’re trying to run a ministry, or meet a church budget, summer is a time of scarcity. People on vacation aren’t home to make donations or mail checks, and we rarely put something in the offering when we’re just a visitor somewhere else. Ministries that run on donations know that summers make them tighten their belts, so they send out scads of donation appeals. My mailbox is full of them.
Being on a limited income, there’s no way we can send money to everyone who asks. (When Jesus told the disciples to do exactly that—see Matthew 5:42 and Luke 6:30—I often wonder if he had our era of mass communications in mind!) The problem is that they’re all worthwhile causes. How can I possibly choose between puppy-eyed orphans, rescued slaves, starving families, unborn children, our local homeless shelter or food bank, refugees, and entire people groups without any knowledge of Jesus? Indecision leaves me paralyzed.
Continuing the series on What to Give God for Christmas…
Jesus didn’t stop with telling us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. He wants us to love other people as much as he loves them. That’s a tall order! How do we go about loving others?
There are as many ways to love others as there are others to love. This is where we get to be a bit creative.
By all means, do something special for those on your Christmas list. One of my love languages is “gifts” so I can appreciate how well a carefully chosen present will convey the love of the person giving it. Even here, there are ways to help others while blessing your friends and family. I always check out the gifts on fair trade websites, especially for those hard-to-shop-for people; these organizations are a good source of handmade, one-of-a-kind items. For starters, I recommend Trade As One. I’ve been more than pleased with both their products and their service. (See last year’s post on fair trade.)