Saturday, December 18, 2010

Season of Giving

During Christmas it seems that all the charities of the world come together to tap into the Christmas spirit of giving. I think this is a good thing. I like to help my kids see the bigger world and share the blessings we have with Christmas Shoeboxes through Samaritan's Purse. I love to stock up on canned goods when they go on sale in the fall so the boys can raid my pantry for the annual school food drive. I think it is incredibly important to teach my kids about loving our neighbors not only with our words and deeds but with our belongings as well. My boys have a very blessed life and I want them to understand their responsibility to care for those in need.

But I have been struck this year by the amount of need and the lack of funds to meet those needs. Our country got ourselves into a huge pit when we started to live beyond our means as a nation, when we started to redefine what is a need and what is a want. I think we grabbed onto our houses, our cars, our vacations, our kid's new clothes and held tight in order to feel valued, fulfilled or safe. Our priorities shifted and I think somewhere along the way we lost God. Our comfortable lives became our idols, the things we worshipped with our time, our money, our talents.

I have been reading the Old Testament a lot recently because I am way behind on my Bible reading for this year. As I have been rushing to catch up, I found myself spending a lot of time reading the prophets warning the people of Israel of God's impending judgement and discipline. The prophets were crying out for the people to turn from their idols, repent and follow God's law. And the people, who knew the stories of Moses and the Israelites wandering the desert for 40 years, who knew the law and all the commands, who were the descendants of those who built the temple and those who served at the temple, these people continued to hold onto their false gods, their idols, their possessions, their own abilities.

Today I read Hosea 12:9 where God tells His people, "I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast." I will again make you dwell in tents. I will again take you into the desert, to the place where you have to trust in me, your God. I will bring you to a place of total loss, to a place where you again, have to trust in me because there is no other hope. I am the Lord your God and I will show you how much you need me.

I am deeply saddened by the pain families are feeling as the economy continues to drag down. I want to help. But I don't want to help support our idols. I don't want to accidently keep people away from God because I jumped to meet a "need" of this world and did not pray, share and meet the greater need of their lives. I want to continue to be obedient to caring for those in need. I want to be generous. But I also want to be wise. I want to help our community find that place where we remember what we really need and what are wants. I want to help people become dependent on God and not slaves to money and what it can do. I want to catch those who are truly falling and not get distracted by those that are standing on the wrong balance beam.

But how? There is no easy answer. I only know that when I pray about a need sometimes my heart hears yes and sometimes it hears no.

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