At this time of year, it can seem like a lot is asked of you. While much of the Christmas season in the U.S. is rooted in consumerism, there are some tangible (and profound) reasons why Christians give. By taking hold of these truths, we can honor God through our donating and gift giving.
At the start of our "Living for Jesus This Christmas" series, here are four reasons why Christians give.
Creation itself testifies to the giving Spirit of God. In the beginning, God creates (Genesis 1–2). The act of creation is rooted in love and compassion: When God sees that Adam may be lonely, he creates a companion in Eve (Genesis 2:18–25).
From the divine imagination, comes creation. And God looks at his creation and gives again. Everything good in our world is based in giving.
But after creation, humanity went astray and mucked it all up. This put us humans out of alignment with God; and it put us out of alignment with the intention of God's creation (Genesis 3).
God once again looks at his creation and decides on a solution; he decides to give. That solution is the gift of Jesus (God the Son). And that's what we celebrate at Christmas time: God becoming flesh in Jesus (Luke 1–2). In Jesus, we have salvation (John 1; 3:16).
In Jesus, we see the miraculous. But the way God comes in flesh should tell us something: Out of what seems to be ordinary, God will do the extraordinary. God chooses an ordinary Jewish family and the savior is born in an ordinary place, in impoverished circumstances. The miraculous comes through the unexpected.
God certainly provides via the completely miraculous: We see this when God provides for the Hebrew people while they're roaming in the wilderness (Exodus 16). But more often than not, God uses other people to bring about his provision. And that also seems pretty ordinary.
This is why Paul pleads with the Corinthian church to honor their obligation to help the impoverished church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 9:1–15). He knows that God will use ordinary people to accomplish his work. Paul himself also depended on other people when he was imprisoned and mentions these types of moments often in his letters (e.g., Philemon 1; Philippians 5:25).
When people helped Paul, or those he advocated for (like the Jerusalem church), they themselves were changed. Paul emphasizes this:
"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV).
Generosity gives us an opportunity to honor God with what he has given us. It enriches our souls. Paul explains this another way earlier in this same passage:
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NIV).
We as Christians are expected to steward the resources we are given. If we give generously, God will give generously to us. That giving from God may not come in the ways our culture can measure, but it will come.
At the core of the Christian value is a value of giving. Let's give this Christmas season.
If you’re struggling in life, pastel colors and chocolate bunnies won’t make you feel better. Deep down, it all feels a little trivial. What we need is Resurrection Day—in its full meaning. Here are four ways Easter is authentic hope for every day of the year.
For many of us, Easter is an emotional day—full of disappointment, grief, and depression. As we officially move into Spring, we think of all that isn’t and all that could be. And we’re sad. We reflect and don’t feel hope but despair. But for the earliest Christians—who likewise experienced intense pain and disappointment—Jesus’ resurrection changed their entire state of mind.
I think of Paul the apostle, who went through unbelievable difficulties including shipwrecks and beatings (2 Corinthians 11:16–33). And yet despite this, he declares:
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:8–10 NIV).
For Paul and other early Christians, resurrection was a state of mind. The resurrected Lord Jesus gave them hope, despite incredible obstacles. Such a hope can change the way we look at each and everyday. It can give us what we need to overcome our feelings of despair, depression, and grief. It can give us what we need to move forward.
The pain of losing a loved one is absolutely searing. The grief knows no bounds. But even when facing this grief, Paul the apostle could have hope. He declares:
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–16 NIV).
There is hope for the living and the dead in Christ. There is a final resurrection day coming. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, those who believe experience resurrected life (compare Colossians 1:18; John 3:16–17; 11:25). This is hope for every day—no matter what loss may come our way. We can look to the future of what God will do and declare it good.
Jesus did not die merely for our salvation, although he certainly died for that (see Isaiah 53:10–12). He also died so that we can have freedom from sin and its ramifications. Jesus’ resurrection gave us the ability to be freed from sin’s power over our life. Resurrection gives us liberating hope. Paul put it this way:
“We were therefore buried with [Jesus] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:4–7 NIV).
Perhaps today you are feeling bound by the sin in your life. Jesus has hope for you. Jesus’ resurrection can reign in your life and release you from the bondage of sin. Jesus can give you new life. Jesus wants you to be free. Jesus wants to offer everyone in our world the liberty of resurrected life.
Throughout our world, there is unbelievable pain. There are famines, extreme poverty, and those who have never known the freedom of Jesus. There are people in desperate situations who desperately need help. The call of the gospel—the call of Jesus—is that we would have new life in him and that we would offer new life to others (Matthew 18:5; 25:40–45; John 14:6; James 1:27).
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension offers us the very power of God in our lives (John 14–16). It gives us a chance to have the transformational power of God as Holy Spirit working in us. It gives us the chance to be God’s representatives here and now. With resurrected life on our side—in us and working through us—we can do anything God calls us to do (Philippians 4:16). Resurrection is real and tangible hope, right now.
Imagine the great and incredible power of offering new life to the broken and hurting of our planet. Imagine equality and the freedom of Jesus reaching every ear. Imagine the hope that we could have this day and everyday if we were truly about Jesus’ love.
Resurrection is what we need. Resurrection is what our world needs. Resurrection is hope for every day, in every situation.