Friday, November 2, 2012

'Tis the Season

I can't believe it is November already! In fact, it is November 2nd, which means a very important person in my life is celebrating his birthday today.  Between his birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, my mind has begun to turn toward the idea of giving and receiving. 

We all love to receive, don't we?  Most of us love receiving letters or cards in the mail, emails when we log in, presents on our birthdays and at Christmas.  For some people, this is part of their "love language," and the act of giving and receiving is how they best express their love for someone or know they are loved in return.  And in the U.S., we place a high premium on getting.  We spend billions of dollars between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.

But I have a question: does it satisfy you? Does it really fulfill you to receive and receive and receive?

I know it doesn't satisfy me.  There's always something more, something better, something new.  Receiving, getting, never really fulfills me. Perhaps this holiday season, we need to stop demanding and pleading and begging for things for ourselves and begin focusing on giving

Here are a few things that God has said about giving:

"Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." ~Deuteronomy 15:10-11

"The sluggard's craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing." ~Proverbs 21:25-26

In the gospels, Jesus said, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." ~Matthew 5:42

"Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." ~Matthew 10:8 

"Jesus answered,  'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" ~Matthew 19:21

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" ~Matthew 25:34-40

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~Luke 12:32-34

"Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'" ~Luke 14:12-14

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." ~2 Corinthians 9:6-7

 We could go on, but it seems quite clear that God wants us to be giving people.  It makes the most sense - after all, we serve the God who gave Himself as a sacrifice and gave up the rights of being God to become human and pay the price for our sins (see Philippians 2 and all of Romans).  Our Lord Jesus gave up his rights, gave up the privileges of being the God of the universe to become human and lay down his life - for you.

The sacrificing servant whom we serve desires that we, too, be sacrificing servants. 

You might not be called to give up your life for another. You might not be called to sell everything you have to give to the poor or become a missionary to groups who have never heard of Christ.  So what steps can you take to be a more giving servant? 

This holiday season, would you be willing to give up receiving gifts for yourself so that the poorest among us might receive?  

You can make this a reality through Compassion's Christmas Gift Catalog.  
Through Compassion's gift catalog, you can donate in someone's name to provide vitally needed care for the poorest of the poor around the world, through Compassion's local church partners. 

Some possibilities: 
  • For only $4, you can help protect a child from deadly and sickening parasites. 
  • For $14, you can provide food for a mother and baby for a month. 
  • For $23, you can help build water reservoirs for a family or community. 
  • For $25, you can provide HIV testing for a child.
  • For $32, you can provide needed dental care for a child. 
  • For $40, you can help treat a child with a deadly illness. 
  • For $55, you can provide medical care for a baby for a year. 

For those who can give even greater amounts - or for those who want to combine forces to share the costs, these are some of the possibilities: 
  • For $280, you can provide livestock to a family that can provide them with wool, milk, and meat. 
  • For $300, you can provide long-term medical care for a child who has been injured or who has a long-term illness. 
  • For $300, you can provide support for a child or caregiver living with HIV/AIDS.
  • For $504, you can provide one year of shelter for a highly vulnerable child.
  • For $528, you can provide all the necessary prenatal care, birthing assistance, and newborn assistance to a new mother and her baby. 
  • For $1320, you can help provide a stable roof for a vulnerable family 
  • For $1045, you can help rescue a child from a dangerous situation - especially those in danger of being sold into slavery or exploited as part of human trafficking.
  • For $5000, you can give a child access to live-saving surgeries. 
(These amounts are merely suggestions - those who choose to give can donate any amount to any particular gift.  If you are passionate about health care, for instance, but cannot afford to give the suggested amounts, any donation that you can offer will be used for that gift.) 

And if none of those gifts strike your fancy, would you consider sponsoring a child living in extreme poverty for only $38 a month?  You can bring hope, education, compassion, and Christ to a child who desperately needs them by sponsoring a child through Compassion.

Or you could donate money to Compassion's disaster relief funds, education and parenting initiatives, malaria prevention and HIV/AIDS initiatives, or offer one-time support to children waiting for sponsors.  

This Christmas, you have the potential to radically transform a child's life, or perhaps their family's life, or a community's life.  If you have been given much, will you consider giving up your rights for things to help bring hope and needed care to those who need it most?