Charity at Christmas
Bustling through the busy day, many will rush to get ready for work or errands, grab a designer coffee and proceed with the day. Perhaps they see the man with the sign on the corner that reads “anything will help”. They give pause to reflect on how that person ended up in a presumably destitute state of begging. They feel compassion, revulsion, empathy, anger, or none of that as they speed their warm car quickly past. Most people don’t stop and help. Some may say a prayer and others won’t care. Where does Christian charity begin and how does one sort out the best way to help people in need this Christmas season?
James 2:14-17 poses the question to the new church regarding the value of faith vs. works. “Can faith save? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food…one of you says, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?’ So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”[i] Easy to give lip service and a quick prayer, but not so easy to act. What would it have been like to be Jesus walking among so many with such great need, both spiritually and physically? I am sure his heart was filled with compassion as he worked to help everyone in His path.
How does the church navigate the works of charity this season? Where does it start? Many churches will choose to support large organizations. World Vision focuses on children and their families internationally, providing clean water and nutritious meals. If a congregation chooses to help with hunger, Feed the Hungry would be one route with which to proceed. Operation Christmas Child is a favorite because individuals and families are physically engaged as they shop for gifts and personal needs for a child when filling their shoebox. There is also the opportunity to be part of packing and shipping the boxes at designated locations. Locally volunteering and giving to the Salvation Army or a similar charity is another idea.[ii]
As a family, it is rewarding to choose a local family in need of support this Christmas season. Someone who is experiencing grief may enjoy being invited to a family event. Someone who has experienced the loss of a job may appreciate guidance or assistance with a resume. Public schools and local charities are often in need of shoes and coats. Children can further appreciate what they have if they are part of sharing what they have possessed and no longer need. Even a “pay it forward” in line at the fast-food restaurant would add cheer to others and give them an idea to do the same. Many local organizations will set up Angel Trees for participants to choose to be the “angel” for a child’s Christmas gift.[iii] Offer your talents, volunteer, contribute financially, and open your home and your heart. God will lead you where He needs you most.
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