Christmastime has always been associated with giving. A lot of people tend to spend more during the holidays in order to buy presents for friends and family alike. Most people would already have planned their Christmas shopping as stores compete to entice customers great and small with holiday deals and bargains. I'm sure the Christmas shopper will have to be overwhelmed by the many options of things to buy for someone else these days.
It's amazing to listen to a lot of people planning to buy a new TV set; or that PlayStation3 bundle for a cool low price; or that new iPod or iPhone on the rack; or maybe that new dress or those expensive-looking pair of shoes (which are now on sale, of course). Not to mention the toys on this rack and that for boys and girls of all ages.
The staggering economy might not become too obviously felt these days as we rush through the stores to buy our presents to give away. Besides, it's giving something to those who are important to us that matters, right? And we set an example to the younger generation on generosity especially during this time of the year. At least they would learn to give presents to their cousins and friends and classmates in school, right?
Well, I personally don't agree to that at this point in my life. I believe our affluence has allowed even Christians to forget about what it really means to "give". We've come a long way that even if there are about 159 million people or 77% of America professing to be Christians (according to the 2001 ARIS study), we see a great imbalance of things in our communities. Some families will definitely have a whole lot of presents to open on Christmas morning while some struggle to share a meal together on Christmas day because there was not enough food for everyone.
I am reading on the book of Acts again and was really fascinated and personally challenged by the way the early believers lived their lives and how they really practiced "giving". In Acts chapter 2:42-45, we can see that the fellowship of the early believers was far from what we see in our community with "believers" today. Here's the picture of what they had before:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. (Acts 2:42-45)
I personally believe that they also had their share of trials and hardships in life but it was unlike the hardship many believers face today. Problems were a lot easier for them to bear knowing that whatever it was they needed, God provided through others who were willing to give. And look at how they gave... these people sold their possessions and goods in order to give to ANYONE WHO HAD A NEED! Has it never occurred to us that the early believers had EVERYTHING IN COMMON? Nobody was wealthier or poorer than the other. Nobody was hungry, nobody was homeless, nobody had a need that wasn't met. There were no needy persons among them! Just read Acts 4:34!
If our professing Christian churches and communities would just return to the biblical way of living as the early christians did, nobody would have to be cold, or hungry, or in need, or in debt in the family of believers today. We have totally deceived ourselves by thinking that when we give presents to our loved ones and our friends and our co-workers we are showing them a christian way of life of being generous. Are we really? The bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver! How far are we able to give from what we have? $30? $50? $100? How about $1000? or $10,000 if we have it? We've really been so side-tracked today with our christianity. Most of us worry more about an uncertain future in this world by saving up money in the bank or in our 401K's than about our brethren who are REALLY in need today.
I believe the very reason why the early christians were able to give as they did was because they have totally understood that they were only pilgrims of this world. This life was temporary. Nothing that they have was their own because they knew God owned everything they have. I wonder if the church today will ever be the same as the days of the book of Acts. I wonder if there ever will be a change in the way believers today view life and giving as it was really meant to be.
"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
Now that it's the season for giving, let's really examine ourselves if we are willing to be cheerful givers and give the way the early church did. Are we willing to follow the way giving was really meant to be in the bible?
May we think about "giving" this holiday season and become cheerful givers to those who
REALLY ARE IN NEED...
"LOVE must be sincere..." (Romans 12:9)