It’s Christmastime, the celebration of Christ’s birth. The day we give things to people we love, wrapped in colorful paper or tossed in a colorful bag. A lot of those people already had a lot of other junk, but we’re piling it on anyway. We give them things they don’t want. Things they already have. Things that will go in closets. A couple years ago, I gave my dad a Leatherman tool that sat on top of his fridge in exactly the same spot until the following summer. I would love to see a study on the percentage of Christmas presents received today which are neither wanted nor kept.
The rich in denial
17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. — 1 Timothy 6
America is one of the richest nations in the world, but we also hoard things like no other time in history. We have so much, and yet charitable institutions are having trouble hitting their budgets. Francis Chan did a study a while back that stated basically that if all people who went to church gave 10% of their earnings to their church, it would position the church to 100% solve world hunger. The problem in our world isn’t that we don’t have the resources to do what we should. It isn’t that we aren’t hearing the words that we need to hear so we know what to do. The problem is we don’t believe God.
Those rich people who are described in 1 Timothy? Chances are that’s you and me. We see the word “rich” and we think maybe that means Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates. People who have so much money that they could build an entire village of houses and not even feel it. We do nothing because what we perceive as making a major impact is so far above our means, we let ourselves off the hook totally. We hear. We know. We do nothing. We think the Bible isn’t talking about us. It is.
Let me back up for a second, though. I don’t want to rage against the US standard of living. Good for the US for reaching the point it has. Shame on us for keeping it all to ourselves. Shame on us for hearing God’s directives refusing to believe he was talking to us.
The new rich
Think for a second about the possibility that you might be richer than you think. Now think about the verse from 1 Timothy lke this:
You, 95% of America… you are rich in this world, but don’t be proud and don’t trust in your money, which is so unreliable. Your trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.Use your money to do good. You should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. Seriously, always. You should be looking for it. You should consider doing that before you get back on QVC and buy another kitchen gadget.
I am convinced that God has blessed our nation so that we can bless others. We have extra money so we can support other people. I know there are people in fixed incomes and in situations where money just isn’t there, but I think they are in a major minority. I believe that if we all looked at our cable bills, our entertainment budgets, our clothes budgets, and our hobby funds, we could find some money we could use to help someone else. I think with a minimal amount of creativity, we could think of someone who needs our help.
We don’t, though. We don’t because it’s easier to think of what a good idea something is rather than bring yourself to do it.
You need a Jenny.
There’s a young lady in the small group I’m in named Jenny. Jenny is kind of quiet and reserved, she’s not someone who yells her opinion. Jenny serves a very specific purpose in our group, though. One that I deeply appreciate because she keeps me from becoming a person in love with ideas instead of people. Whenever one of us says something like, “that’s wrong, we should do something about it,” Jenny is the one who almost always chimes back in with, “so what are you going to do?”
Jenny is speaking for Jesus in that capacity, I know. He said the same thing once:
13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” — Matthew 14 (NLT)
The disciples were no more rich than we are. Far less, I imagine. They weren’t Oprah or Trump, but they were right next to Jesus. I don’t think Jesus let anybody off the hook if they decided to run with him. I think he’s saying the same thing to us. “You don’t have to wait for a program or a charity. You do it. Then give to the programs and charities.”
We ought to take it personally. It’s not about the money, it’s about the people. Don’t see your money, don’t see your hobbies. Don’t focus on whether or not you can watch SportsCenter every night. Look into the eyes of the people God puts in your path and see — really see — who they are and the needs they have. It could be a totally different perception of the Church. People would stop hearing our ridiculous political soapboxes and see our love. Maybe we couild even become more about the love than the politics.