In this season of generosity, it is not uncommon for us to do what we can to make the holidays a special time for others. We may give gifts, meals, participate in toy drives or other acts of kindness. Often, we give because we have a desire to make a difference.
However, I want to challenge us to think about how we are giving. It is important that we understand that there is a good way and a not so good way to be generous. If we don’t understand this, we could be the very ones helping in a way that is not very helpful at all.
Here are a few questions to ask ourselves in our efforts to bless others around us:
“Are we meeting a ‘felt’ need?”
“Do our helping efforts move people forward?”
“Does it affirm the dignity of those we are helping?”
“Does it address a root cause?”
And a final, important question, “Is this effort mainly about making us feel good or appeasing guilt we might feel because we have a bit more than others?”
If our giving becomes more about satisfying our own personal need to feel like generous souls, rather than our primary motivation being to meet the real needs of others, then we miss the point.
How does Jesus call us to give? Here are just a few biblical texts that inform how we should give:
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” James 2:15 Here we see that good intentions are quite pointless when the basic, practical needs are not met.
In Galatians 6:2, Paul calls the church to love each other through action when he says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This suggests that we shouldn’t only care, but we must act in love by easing the pain and removing the weight of our neighbors. The ways in which we can do this are endless.
The final example is a prophetic text about our Savior’s life calling - “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God” Isaiah 61:1-2
There is a stark contrast between our holiday efforts of generosity and the example of Jesus’ life. Becoming more like Jesus is a lifelong process, but there are practical principles we can use to make a greater impact in each of our neighborhood context.
Urban Impact has been subscribing to the approach of the Christian Community Development movement from our inception. We live among the families that we serve; we seek their input to ensure that what we do really meets them where they are. We have a holistic approach working to meeting both spiritual and practical needs that exist in areas like housing, health, entrepreneurship, and youth development. All that we do is endeavoring to build the capacity of our community.
How does a church congregation participate in the work Christian Community Development (CCD)? At Urban Impact we have a passion to come alongside churches as they determine and meet needs in their neighborhood. Here are some examples of our Church Hub’s CCD work around the holidays: Rainier Avenue Church provides a transitional home for refugee families who are resettling in the Seattle area. Central Community Church has an ongoing relationship with the Seattle World School and is providing gifts cards for families to cover lunch meals during the Christmas break. Emerald City Bible Fellowship invited over 200 neighbors to their annual Thanksgiving dinner as a way to build relationships and listen to needs. Mount View Presbyterian Church is working feverishly in their local high school to recognize positive attendance so that students can participate in their own change. In all of this work, the church is mobilized to practice Community Development principles that empower others for God’s glory.
This season I pray that Christ will give you a burden-bearing love for those around you.
I pray that all that you do for others will not only encourage them, but meet a real need that they have, and give them a clear sense of God’s love for them. I pray for God’s church to grow in its love for justice in its own community and tenacity to persevere in the work.
Let me close by saying thank you for your partnership with us this year. All that we do is made possible because you have been obedient to the Lord and have shared with us the resources the Lord has place under your care.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year!