Thursday, December 26, 2013

Giving Shouldn’t Be Just a Holiday Thing

Christmas is over, so the season for gifts and giving is over, right?

In the blink of an eye Christmas has come and gone. Final choruses of carols on the radio and in shopping malls have been sung. Gifts have been exchanged, cleverly designed wrapping paper now lies in shreds, and shouts of delight (and groans of disappointment) are fading echoes. In some homes Christmas trees have been taken down, with brightly colored ornaments packed and stashed away for another 11 months.

Salvation Army bells have been silenced, collection buckets hauled back to storage until next Thanksgiving. Annual fund drives for the poor and hungry have ceased. Many of us have contributed what we could to our favorite causes. Now we resume life as usual, post-holidays.

It’s great we can use the Christmas season to call special attention to people in need. That’s why some people call it the season of giving. But people aren’t hungry only in December. They need food and clothes and have bills they can’t pay in February, too. As well as June, September, and every other month. Financial struggles have no season.

Some of our holiday giving might have been prompted by school or church-sponsored “adopt a family” initiatives. Some of us chose the last month of the year to give because of tax benefits derived from charitable giving. Some of us gave because we felt sorry for folks standing at store and mall entrances, braving the elements so “the least of these” could receive tangible help. Even if our motives weren’t the purest, what we gave will certainly help someone.

Now as we prepare to bid adieu to another year and launch a new one to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” (or a more contemporary tune, if you prefer), it might be good to remind ourselves that generosity shouldn’t be just something we remember over the holidays. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35), and He certainly wasn’t talking to His followers about the Christmas season.

One of the benefits of giving is receiving the satisfaction of knowing we’ve assisted or pleased someone else. That’s certainly a good reason to give at any time of the year. But giving is also a part of our calling and responsibility as followers of Christ.

In fact, the concept of giving to people we don’t even like provided the context when Jesus discussed the so-called “Golden Rule.” “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-31).

Talk about hard sayings of Jesus! Being good to people who aren’t good to us? Then He explained, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that…. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great…” (Luke 6:32-35).

When I read this, I’m tempted to shout, “Jesus, You’ve got to be kidding!” But that’s what He said. Definitely counter-cultural, right? But He did mention a “reward.” What’s that about?

He concluded His brief discourse about giving with this promise: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:37-38).

We all enjoy receiving good things. So Jesus said we should be just as eager to give, whenever the opportunity arises, trusting we won’t go wanting as a result. In fact, we’ll be blessed more than we could imagine. So even though the “season of giving” is over, don’t forget to keep giving.

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