Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: giving

Boxing Day musings

Feasting on Christmas Day has a long and noble tradition and one is at risk of being branded a heretic if he suggests it might not be necessary.

Noble in that first sentence is meant to be taken literally – for many centuries it was only the nobility and the rich who could afford to feast on Christmas Day, or any other day.

Many years ago it became the custom in England for rich families to give their servants a day off on the day after Christmas. They had served their masters on Christmas day, now it was their turn to go home to their families and celebrate. They didn’t go empty handed. They were given boxes with gifts, a little money and some of the food that was left from the Christmas day feast.  Thus was born the tradition of Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is a statutory holiday in Canada, but alas, it is no longer a day of giving. Rather it is a day when merchants put all their left over Christmas stock on sale at deep discounts. This means that everyone gets the day off except store employees. This is their busiest day of the year.

Sunday morning our minister in his message pointed out many of the things that most people believe about the birth of Jesus that are not found in the Bible. It’s about time. These things are being pointed out in newspaper and magazine articles and we’re getting to a situation where non-Christians know more about the facts of Jesus’ birth than Christians do.

My parents told me that my gifts on Christmas morning came from Santa Claus. It was almost 70 years ago, but I still remember how I felt when they told me that Santa Claus did not exist. My first thought was “What other lies have they been telling me?”

What do we have left when we strip away all the fanciful stories that have been added to the account of Jesus’ birth (why not just call them lies)? We have the account of the miraculous birth of the only begotten Son of God, coming into a fallen world to make a way for our redemption. And that is everything.

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Realities

‘Tis what we are, not what we seem;
‘Tis the work we do, not the dreams we dream;
Not what we have, but what we give;
Not the words we speak, but the life that we live;
Not the things we teach, but what we learn;
Not the wrong we do, but the sin we spurn;
Not the valiant deed on the King’s highway;
But the gentle deeds from day to day;
The things which help to cheer and bless,
That make the sum of our happiness.

                                                   Author Unknown

Should Christians tithe?

Some Christians firmly believe that the Old Testament 10% rule is still in force for Christians today.  They tell inspirational tales of someone who was struggling financially and could hardly find any spare change for the collection plate.  Then they began to give 10% off the top of their income and, as if by magic, all their financial needs were supplied.

There are quite convincing arguments against the 10% requirement for Christians in the new dispensation.  First, there is no command to tithe to be found anywhere in the New Testament.  Second, it is argued, the tribe of Levi was given no inheritance in the promised land, thus the tithe was a tax to support the Levitical priesthood and is not needed in the present dispensation.

I believe these are entirely valid arguments.  Does that leave Christians with no direction or guidelines on how much to give?  If we are looking for a hard and fast rule, I don’t believe we are going to find it.  What I read in the New Testament leads me to the gut-wrenching conclusion that God wants everything I have and everything I am.

The rich young ruler could not handle Jesus’ command to sell everything.  Most of the rest of us would like to squirm out of it, too.  We may blithely say, “Everything I have belongs to Jesus.”  Would an impartial bystander be likely to believe that from the way we use our time and the material things that come into our hands?

“For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”  (1 Corinthians 4:7).  If everything that we have comes from God and is only a loan to us, can we then give 10% back to God, use the other 90% selfishly, and consider ourselves free?

Here is how it looks to me — the most important thing is that God wants us to trust Him completely, not only for our eternal destiny, but for all aspects of our earthly life.  He wants us to trust Him for our material needs, to trust Him to care for our family, our health, and to lead us in a way that will bring true happiness.  “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

When faced with decisions regarding any aspect of our life, our prayer should be, “Lord, what couldst thou have me to do?”  Asking that question, and waiting for the answer, will save us many heartaches.

I hope this doesn’t sound hopelessly idealistic.  I believe it is eminently practical, but we make lots of mistakes in living it.  I like the British expression of “muddling through.”  I’m afraid that’s all that I am capable of, yet I believe that with God’s help I will be able to muddle through somehow.  “ For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

Back to the question in the title, I don’t believe that the New Testament Christian is obliged to give 10% of his income.  Many find it a useful guideline.  Some give much less, according to their circumstances and stage of life.  I know many who give several times 10%.  Is it OK to give 20% of our income and 0% of our time?  Perhaps the point is to never feel like we are doing God a favour by our giving.  It didn’t really belong to us in the first place.

The best Christmas gift

We had our family Christmas gathering on Boxing Day.  There was grandpa, grandma, daughter, son-in-law, two grandsons and two granddaughters.  In the afternoon the table was laden with various snacks and we were all working away at reducing the quantities.

Evan, our youngest grandson, two years and one month old, picked up a big handful of  yogurt covered raisins and sat down beside his dad.   Then he picked one out, walked over to grandpa and gave it to him.   Grandpa said “thank you” and popped it into his mouth.  Evan smiled a big happy smile and went back to sit beside dad.   As soon as grandpa had finished eating the raisin, Evan was back to give him another.  Thus process was repeated until all the raisins were gone (Evan did eat a few himself, too).

Nobody prompted him, applauded him, or paid him much attention at all.  Except for grandpa who said “thank you” each time, and that seemed to be enough.  It was a purely spontaneous act of giving from the heart of a child.  And grandpa’s heart was warmed by this more than by any other gift he received that day.  (The other gifts were much appreciated also, but this was truly special.)

It got me to wondering – why can’t I be more like Evan?   I want to be, but far too often the busyness of life seems to get in the way.  But would that really interfere if I had a childlike heart?

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:4).

 

Running Over

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.  For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38).

People say that a pessimist sees the cup as half empty and the optimist sees it as half full.  That’s as far as human wisdom can take us.  The Word of God tells of a cup that is running over (Psalm 23 and the above Scripture).  I think I see my problem — I have this great big cup and I want it filled to the brim so that I can face many tomorrows knowing that my needs are supplied.  And it’s hard to give any of it away because it’s never quite full enough.

But, if I start with a cup that’s just big enough for this moment, right here and now, God fills it to overflowing.  And no matter how much I give away, it is still running over.  Why is it so hard for me to remember that?

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