One of the great puzzles of history will certainly be how a historic faith got so far from its roots, original character, purpose, and meaning. It is probably true of all faiths, but I can only speak of the one I know.
How Christianity went from a faith based on sacrificial giving to an institutional blessing of taking will certainly be a challenge for historians untangle. If there were ever a faith with the heft, logic, and compassion to oppose imperialism, colonialism, slavery, and exploitation of every kind, you’d think it would be Christianity.
And yet somehow Christianity has consistently been used to justify and defend these blatantly evil forces of exploitation and domination – if not outright cruelty and destruction.
And then Christmas rolls around.
If anything, the songs and sights of the Christ-child should bring warmth to the hearts of even the most hardened (Mr. Scrooge of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol is only one example of this). But the message of Christianity is not that conversion and restoration of hardened souls happens in December, but any time. The season of healing, forgiveness, and restoration never ends. Giving, not acquiring, is a mark of a redeeming faith.
From the tax collector (Luke 19:8) to casting bread upon the waters, giving (even reckless giving, with no accounting or expectation) is the mark of the believer.
Building bigger barns (Luke 12:18) is not the answer. Giving “hilariously” (2 Corinthians 9:1-15) is. Notice how scripture put it: this is the person God loves. Doesn’t that sound like a pretty clear indicator?
Consider this recent post from a friend of mine on social media:
We are now a solid 8 months into this. If you are not working/not getting a paycheck/struggling to make ends meet and run out of food or necessities…please don’t let yourself or your kids go to sleep with an empty stomach. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send me a private message. I am more than happy to help you and your family out. I will drop and go, or order for delivery. No one has to know and I will pretend it never happened. What’s understood never has to be explained.
As this person writes, nothing needs to be explained or justified. This is the Gospel in action.
You don’t need to be religious to know this is the right thing to do – and not just for the one receiving (Acts 20:35). Oddly enough, this friend does not publicly define themselves as a person of faith.
With this statement, they don’t need to.