“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.
Henrietta Haas was born in Vienna in 1929. When the Nazi threat drove her family to America in 1939, Henrietta studied retailing in college and later earned a master’s degree in library science. She married her sweetheart, Monroe Milstein, who launched a clothing business after World War II. Henrietta worked as a librarian in a Long Island elementary school, and she used her $75,000 in savings to help her husband purchase a former factory outlet in Burlington, New Jersey, for his clothing store.
Business boomed and Burlington Coat Factory soon opened a second location. The Milstein’s son, Lazer, agreed to run the second store on the condition it be closed on Saturday, his Sabbath. Consequently, the store reopened every Sunday morning, where hundreds of people came to shop on their day off. When the Milstein family sold Burlington Coat Factory in 2006, it was purchased for more than two billion dollars—the $75,000 investment paid great dividends!
As it happens, the Christmas season marks the beginning of winter when people are shopping for outerwear or pulling sweaters out of their closet. Some of us have sweaters, coats, dresses, or ties we wear only at Christmas. Some of them are corny, some are classy; but all of them spur on the holiday spirit.(When God Says “No”) Accepting God’s Answer
Dr. John Rosemond, who specializes in parenting issues, once received a letter from the exasperated mother of a three-year-old girl, whom the mom described as “constantly in motion, gets into everything, won’t stay in her bed at night, won’t accept ‘No’ for an answer,” and so on. In the middle of describing this little unsettling child, the mother added, “I know she’s well intentioned.”
Dr. Rosemond wrote back, saying, “Well intentioned? No, your daughter is not well intentioned. She intends to have it her way, she intends to prove she can outlast you, and she intends to prove she runs the show. She is doing what she is doing with bad intention, and you will not be able to discipline her properly until you stop thinking she is innocent and making excuses for her.”Sure Thing: Seeking God’s Truth
On a flight from Phoenix, Arizona, a passenger was randomly selected to have her palms swabbed by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). To her dismay, the test came back positive for explosives, and she was taken to a private room and questioned. The positive reading was a mistake—a false positive—the result of too much Lubriderm hand lotion, which contained small amounts of glycerin, a component of nitroglycerin, used in explosives.
If there’s anything worse than a “false positive,” it’s a “false negative.” That’s when your medical tests come back with good news but only because the results failed to discover a deadly disease, one that could have been cured if discovered in time. Experts around the world —in medicine, law enforcement, drug testing, and in a variety of fields—are working to minimize “false positives” and “false negatives.”
Ellen Creager, “Hand Cream Can Set Off Airport Security,” Detroit Free Press, November 14, 2013. http://www.freep.com/article/20131110/COL21/311100139/creager-travel-q-a. (accessed November 22, 2013).
Do you know for certain that you're saved, or do you just assume that's the case? Your eternity is too important to leave the question unanswered. Today on Turning Point, Dr. David Jeremiah continues his series in First John, Living in the Light, to help you know beyond all doubt whether or not you're truly born again.All Sermons by Dr. David Jeremiah