Some years back, my husband and I were serving as missionaries in northern Brazil when an opening came up for us to take part in a new venture helping young people in Buenos Aires.
At the time we had three children, and I was pregnant with our fourth. My husband is from Argentina and was hoping we could arrive in time to spend Christmas with his elderly father, so a few days before Christmas we set out on the 7,000 km (4,350 mi) overland journey. The trip went fine until we arrived at the border.
Each December I ask my children, Toby and Kathy, now seven and nine, to go through their toys and clothes and set aside what they have outgrown or no longer use. Then I check what they’ve selected, weeding out worn-out items and exercising my veto power in a few cases, and box up the best of the rest to give to others who have less than we do. Besides instilling in the children a spirit of giving, I have found this to also be an effective way to trim down on clutter and put “gently used” items that they no longer need or want to good use.
Jesus temporarily renounced the rights of His citizenship in heaven and became a citizen of this world. Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. He not only adapted Himself to our bodily form, but also conformed to the human ways of life, customs, language, dress, and living, that He might understand and love us better and communicate with us on the lowly level of our own human understanding. He did it that He might reach us with His love, prove to us His compassion and concern, and help us understand His message in simple, childlike terms that we could grasp.
—David Brandt Berg
As I rushed around the streets of Morelia, Mexico,the stoplights were crowded with beggars. It was Christmas Eve, and I had gone out with my 10-year-old daughter for some last-minute shopping.
“Look at her!” Cathy drew my attention to an old woman who had stopped begging momentarily and was rubbing her cold, bare feet.
The weather had been dark and rainy, and I felt just as gloomy. It happens to us all, I guess.
As I sat at my desk, I remembered it was the birthday of a longtime friend—a single, middle-aged woman who had dedicated the past 30 years to nursing and loved her work. Knowing that she didn’t have family in town, I decided to give her a call. Sure enough, she was on B shift, scheduled to work late into the evening, and wouldn’t have much of a birthday this year. As always, though, she sounded cheerful and was happy I had called.
Many Christians today are uncertain about God’s position on wealth, and therefore uncertain about what their attitude toward money should be. Some preach “abundant living”—that wealth is proof of a Christian’s faith and a sign of God’s approval. Others condemn wealth and frown on Christians who amass personal fortunes. People of both persuasions back up their stances with scripture. In actuality, the Bible is more balanced.
The sun was slipping below the horizon as I drove up the narrow two-lane road in central Mexico. I glanced at my wife, Amber, sleeping next to me. In the rearview mirror I could see our three daughters—Tory, the brilliant four-year-old; Shelly, who had just turned two and hardly seemed to stop talking; and baby Vanessa. All were also fast asleep. I considered stopping for coffee, but decided against it. Stopping would surely wake everyone up. Plus we were in a race against time. I didn’t mind driving in the evening, when the children were asleep and the vehicle was cool. It also gave me time to think. I needed that. It had been a long year!
One thing that makes life stressful and even worrisome at times is a lack of money.That’s when it’s important to remember that God is the source of financial supply. “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”1 It’s His to give, and He’s happy to give it. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”2 But no matter how much God wants to help you out, if your financial “house” is missing some of the main pillars, it won’t stand. You need to believe God is able to supply, and then ask and take action. That’s where knowledge, good business sense, and planning come in. Thankfully, God has given an abundance of practical advice on how to put yourself in the best position to receive His financial blessings.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to give what you’ve got. There is not one of God’s children who cannot afford to give something to help others less fortunate. You may think you can’t afford to give, or you may not be able to give a lot at first, but God blesses everybody that gives. If you’re not rich, that’s all the more reason to give, so God can bless you and help you have more.
Giving puts us in a healthier relationship with our possessions and with the material world in which we live.We like making money, but we enjoy other things as well, such as the love of our family, belonging to community, a sense of meaning, accomplishment, contribution, and service. We enjoy making a positive difference in the lives of other people. But how do we maintain balance and perspective? How can we appropriately secure the basic needs of food, shelter, education, and health while also living with purpose? How do we avoid too much preoccupation with the things that do not ultimately satisfy, and cultivate those things that do? The intentional practice of generosity helps us keep our priorities straight.