Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Season of Giving

I am sure by now many of you have purchased Christmas gifts for your loved ones.  I know for me it is an exciting time!  I love lavishing my wife with gifts.  I love giving gifts in general.  I am not a big fan of going to stores and shopping, but that is why God made the internet for me.  Yes, He made the internet just for me because He knows how I love to shop.  Of course, I am kidding.  I posted a message on this same topic last year, but I think it is a good message to share this time of year.  While we are lavishing the ones that we love with the best gifts that we can afford and opening gifts from those same loved ones, we need to keep in mind that there are many who are not as fortunate as us.  There are so many people who are out of work or struggling in inadequate jobs who can barely keep food on the table and a roof over their family's heads let alone purchase gifts for the holiday season.  I think we all need to take some time to give to those who do not have.  The message of Christmas is not just one to another of those we love, but God to the world.  In that spirit, it is only right that we all take time to share with the world out of the abundance that God has provided us. 
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this [will be] the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"  Luke 2:9-14 NKJV
Please do not think I am talking today about some form of social justice.  Social justice as a political movement is only for people who want to give other people's money to charity.  It is not about generosity, but about theft.  Jesus tells us all to share with the poor, but He never tells us to take from others and give to the poor.  What I am talking about is our personal responsibility before God to share His abundance with the rest of the world.  Furthermore, this abundance is only part material.  In fact, Jesus did not come enrich the poor but He came to save the lost.  We are not only to share in His abundance with those who are in need of material goods, but we are also to share the good news of Jesus Christ to those who are in need of salvation.  The former is only a means to the latter as the Gospel is the most precious gift you can give. 

First of all, we need to examine our hearts to see if we are being obedient to God in terms of our generosity.  Have you held back on what God has given you to share with others?  That is a rather serious question.  Think about if someone gave you $20.00 to give to someone else and you just pocketed it.  What would you call that?  I would call it theft.  You took something that was entrusted to you but that was never your own to use and you ended up using it on yourself.  You stole money from the one to whom it was meant for and you stole from your friend who entrusted you with it.  I hope that you see that if God gives you an abundance to share, you are not only stealing from the poor but you are also stealing from God.  God gives us abundance to make us a part of His work in tending to the needs of those who who are in want.  This abundance is never to squander on self.  We are not to lay up treasure for our self on earth but we are to store our treasures in heaven.  That is the message of Scripture. 

On the other hand, when God gives us an abundance to share with those less fortunate, quite the opposite happens.  The Bible tells us that when we give to the poor, it is as though we are loaning money to God.  God promises that if we give to those who do can not give back, we will be repaid in our eternal life.  God will repay you in eternity what you give to the poor today.  God also promises, in this life, to meet the needs of those who meet the needs of those less fortunate. 

We see a pretty stark contrast between giving to the poor and holding back for ourselves.  In fact, the Bible affirms that contrast:
He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.  Proverbs 28:27 NKJV
I do not think you can deny that Scripture wants us to give to the poor, but that is only the less important half of the job.  Please do not think that just giving out some toys and money to a poor family is all we are called to do.  A half job is no job at all really.  Have you ever tried to live in a half-built house?  Would you eat a half-cooked turkey?  What happens if you only rake the leaves but do not bag them?  They blow all over your lawn again making you have to do the job all over again.  Such is the same with only providing materially to the poor.  If you feed a man, he will be hungry again.  If you purchase toys for an entire family of children for Christmas this year, what does that mean for next year?  If you give medicine to a sick man, will he still not eventually die? 

The point I am trying to make is that the gospel has to be part of everything we do.  Keeping someone alive longer or more comfortable does nothing for their eternal soul.  The man whose thirst you quench, even if you quench it for the rest of his natural life, does not mean he will not be like the Rich Man in torment begging for a drop of water in his afterlife.  Healing a sick man in this life does not save him from ultimate death and offers no help for his subsequent judgement.   I said it before and I will say it again: Jesus did not come to end poverty.  Jesus came so that we may have eternal life.  Jesus came to save the souls of all mankind, not feed the stomachs of poor mankind.  Every miracle Jesus performed, every person he healed, every person he fed, and every bit of ministry he accomplished was to establish Himself as the Messiah and as a means of sharing the good news of the gospel.  That is the real message of this Christmas season.

We need to make the gospel the priority this Christmas season.  We give gifts because the wise men gave gifts to Jesus.  If we truly followed in the example of the birth of Jesus, we would give gifts to Jesus as well.  What Jesus desires though is not something we can purchase or make, but it is souls that we can reach.  If we were following the example of Jesus this Christmas season, we would gift the gift of the gospel to all the world.  When the angels came to herald the arrival of Jesus, it was not about any kind of material gift, but about God's gift of Messiah to the world.  Give that gift this year to someone who needs it.  There is no greater gift you can give and no greater need you can fill.  Some gifts elevate our lives for a time, the gift of Jesus gives life eternally. 
Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."  John 4:13-14 NKJV

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