I wasn't going to write this post, because I didn't think I had anything to say. But I've just returned from sorting gifts for my church's Angel Tree project, and it turns out that I do.
|A fraction of what's been collected.|
Compassion's December campaign intends to get us all thinking about giving - how that is more important than getting this season. It's a full social media campaign, #itsaboutgiving, and such as that. Questions like, "What does giving mean to you?" or "When has giving felt really good, or really bad?" and even more specifically, "What does it look like to give Biblically in today's culture?" I felt sort of void when I first thought about those questions, and I realized it is because giving can be complicated.
Recently, I've been part of conversations - in person and online - where someone related a bad giving experience. Friends adopted a family for Christmas, and when they showed up with the gifts, they found a dilapidated house full of expensive electronics and instructions to, "Put it over there." No children, no thank you. Another discovered that a family asking for help was an intricate scam. Others express hesitation with our own Angel Tree, "Why do the children ask for such expensive gifts? I can't afford a Nintendo DS for my own kids. I'm not going to buy one for this kid."
Sometimes, living in America and dealing with poverty is strange. It doesn't look like poverty in Africa or South America. It looks like adults who've had a chance and messed up. It looks like foolish decisions and misplaced values. It looks, maybe, less desperate. We feel, maybe, less sympathetic.
That doesn't mean we walk away.
I don't know how to fix many of the problems, but I believe that hardened hearts are the devil's greatest weapon. We give because it is complicated. We give because children are not responsible for their circumstances. We give because adults need hope and inspiration. We give because God tells us to:
Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean . . . Luke 11: 41 (MSG)We give because it is good for our hearts.
I'm sure your community is full of ways you can help local children in complicated situations. A puzzle, book, teddy bear or game may not solve the root problems or even make much difference at all. . . But if nothing else, it is an act of faith your part, an acknowledgment of their existence, and a refusal to harden your heart.
And, if you are looking to help children around the world, in poverty that looks different but is no less complicated, this is a wonderful opportunity:
No Nintendo requests here. Just livestock, water, education and medical care. The essentials, all wrapped in an organization that is dedicated to sharing the good news of Christ. But be careful. Giving in this way might continue to kneed at your heart. You might go back to the Angel Tree for "just one more." It's funny how that works. The requests here and there are different, but the need for a demonstration of God's love is the same.
What are your thoughts about giving? What do you think about the gifts we give here, and those we send overseas?
Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday
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