“Why are people malnourished in the richest country on Earth?” asks an article in an issue of National Geographic.1 It’s an interesting question, especially for people who probably don’t suffer from malnutrition.
According to this article, the number of people who are hungry has grown dramatically in recent years—increasing to 48 million Americans in 2012. Statistics show that in 1980, there were a few hundred emergency food programs across the country, and five years ago when the article was written, there were 50,000.
Cold, Hard Facts
At no other time of the year is being in need felt as sharply as Christmas. In our society, Christmas has become a time of excess. We often spend too much, eat too much, decorate too much. Yet what if a family lacks the resources of money, shelter, and food to participate in Christmas? Their lack is made more real by the abundance around them.
The 2012 U.S. Conference of [American] Mayors reported that, of 25 cities surveyed, 21 reported an increase in homelessness that year. The report also said that 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty, 16.1 million being children. And on a single night in January 2012, there were (on average) 633,782 people living on the streets.
These are hard facts that families deal with all year long. And in many parts of the country where temperatures dip at Christmastime, they become cold, hard facts.
Christians at Christmas
For two thousand years, the Church has done more for those in need than any other institution. Jesus said that when we minister to “the least of these,” we are ministering to Him. And conversely, when we fail to touch the needy with generosity, it is the same as if we turned a blind eye to Christ Himself (Matthew 25:31-46).
While the Church helps the disadvantaged all year long, there is added emphasis seen at Christmas. Why? Because Christmas is when we celebrate God’s generosity to mankind by sending His own Son into the world as the original Christmas gift. If there is ever a time for us to emulate and imitate our Lord Jesus Christ—the One whose family was temporarily homeless at His birth—it is at Christmas.
Our church has participated for years in Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program, where families with a parent in prison are provided love, encouragement, and material support. They especially help children to have a blessed Christmas—all in the name of Christ. Other churches participate in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child by sending tens of thousands of shoe-box-sized gifts to children all over the world.
Undoubtedly, your church is involved in some kind of Christmas outreach too. Perhaps members volunteer at their local shelter to prepare and serve meals, contribute additional resources, provide counseling, help with logistics, and a myriad of other supportive tasks. Finding a way to get involved in serving the needy at Christmas is rarely a problem.
Caring for Those in Need
As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are obligated to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16)—being His hands and heart. It means helping without passing judgment on who is deserving and who isn’t. Who among us would have received any gift from God if “deserving” was the qualification? That is the meaning of grace and mercy—and we, in Christ, are to love others the same way God has loved us (Ephesians 4:32).
Our responsibility is to love, and the most tangible way to love is to give. Yes, sometimes people could be helped by what we know, but as is often said, “People don’t care about what we know until they know that we care.” This Christmas let us care as Christ cared, in the same way the good Samaritan did for his neighbor in need. Because “your neighbor is anyone with a need that you can meet” (Luke 10:29-37).
God will honor your generosity.
David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God, and serves as
Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information about Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.
1 Tracie McMillan, “The New Face of Hunger,” National Geographic, August 2014, pp. 66-89.
For a Christian to thrive in the current culture, it takes more than faith. It takes courage. Dr. David Jeremiah begins the series, Courage to Conquer, in order to help you grow in this important attribute-especially if you tend to react with fear to what’s happening in the world.