With Christmas fast approaching, you’ve probably started thinking and talking about what to get the loved ones on your list. This Christmas, consider giving gifts that may bless them in a different way.
A quick Bible study on giving shows one of the main themes emphasized is generosity to the poor. God’s people have always been called and commanded to care for those who have less: orphans, widows, aliens and the poor. From early in the church’s existence, Christ’s followers almost universally viewed it as their mandate to take care of the poor, needy and sick.
The Old Testament law commanded God’s people to be open-handed with the poor (Deuteronomy 15:11). Proverbs equates giving to the poor with “lending to the Lord” and promises a reward (19:17, ESV). Several of the prophets indicted the people for not giving generously to the poor. Jesus talked a lot about the poor. Several times He instructed people to sell their possessions and give to the poor. He described His own ministry as a proclamation of good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Zacchaeus once told Jesus he gave half his goods to the poor, and Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:8-9, ESV).
On Cyber Monday, one of my tweeps posted, “Jesus is ‘OK’ if you don’t go into debt while buying trinkets for other people ‘for his birthday’.” I agree. Unfortunately, Christmas has become less about sharing with those in need and more about exchanging stuff we sometimes don’t want or need with family and friends.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great to exchange gifts at Christmas. But I don’t think we should stop there. Let’s return to an emphasis on helping the poor and needy. If we are going to do something special to celebrate Jesus’ birth, let’s give where He gave and would give. What if we took a percentage of our Christmas gifting budget and gave it to the poor?
Here are a few ideas to get you started. This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it will get you thinking about ways you and yours might rethink the way you celebrate Jesus’ birth this year.
World Vision has created an entire catalogue of gift ideas. You can buy a goat and a few chickens for a single mom and her children, dig a poor community a pond stocked with fish, or help provide clean water. They’ve thought of a lot of great ways to serve the poor.
Several years ago some friends got a group of us together to pack boxes for needy children around the world. It’s become an annual tradition. It takes a few hours of our time, and we get to love on some of God’s precious children.
Compassion is doing outstanding work in providing food and education to kids around the world. What if instead of your typical gift exchange, you and your friends or family decided to sponsor a child together or make a gift to Compassion’s general fund?
I love the microloan work Kiva and other similar organizations are doing. You make a loan to someone in poverty. They use it to start a small business. Then they pay the loan back, and you can make a loan to someone else.
There are other ministries and organizations doing great work with the poor as well. These are just a few I know about to prime the pump. Instead of spending all of your time thinking about what to buy for each other this Christmas, maybe spend time thinking about how to stretch your Christmas budget in giving to those truly in need. I’m increasingly convinced Jesus is not as pleased with our gifts to each other as He is with our gifts to the poorest of the poor.