You don’t know any poor people? Aren’t you a Christian? And you don’t know the poor? I can help get you connected to a poor family this holiday season. But my hope is that next year you would be in relationship with a poor family.
Said to Dr. Macalady (Professor at Colorado School of Mines) by a Salvation Army worker circa 1970.
The holiday time brings mixed feelings. It is a time of year when people feel more generous. It is a time of year when we want to be more self-less. And, while we are encouraging our children to write lists of what they want to Santa, we are also trying to teach them to be self-less and focused on the other. Apparently there is a Novel by Jason F. Wright called Christmas Jars. Although I have never read the story, it has been retold so many times in my presence that I feel I know it. There are now websites filled with Christmas Jar stories (see, for example: christmasjars.blogspot.com). The story is about a family that decides to limit the amount of money that they spend on Christmas. Seeking to curb the Christmas greed they decide to put money in a jar all year long and then use only that money to celebrate. A fine idea. One year when they take their jar to cash it in they see a needy person and decide to give the jar to the needy person instead. That is a heartwarming story of selflessness and a touching way to help us remember who is supposed to be the center of the Christmas season (and it’s not Santa). And, although there is nothing wrong with that Christmas story, there may be something wrong with planning on using that story and your own living of that story as an object lesson for a child in your life. You know, you plan the whole year, and keep your pennies going in the jar and then find a, “needy person” to give the jar to. Now you have given your child an important lesson in charity. Yay. Do you notice though that the focus of the story is on what you want to teach your child? The focus is not on the humans that are being used to shore up the object lesson on generosity. There is no relationship established, no transformation happening, no God being invited into an ongoing story of redemption -- our redemption and our neighbors’ redemption. There is only the accomplishment of providing a lesson to your child so that they may become more generous, or at least less greedy.God does not intend for us to use other people as the means to an end. God desires real relationship -- with us and between God’s people - all God’s people. Real relationships are transformational and messy. That’s why we must rely on the grace of God to help us connect to God and one another. It’s why we must resist the temptation to use one another -- even if the lesson that we are trying to teach is a good one. If you want to find out more about how Parker Lane is helping our neighbors meet these challenges you can read more at www.parkerlane.org. If you’d like to support the work of the church you can donate on line at that same website.
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