Before the Christmas break, my daughter Hannah volunteered to assist in their school’s activity to entertain and give out Christmas gift bags to poor children from an institution. I allowed her to be a part of it because I wanted her to be aware of the needs of less-fortunate children. When she came home late in the afternoon, she shared with me her experience. According to her, she and her other classmates who volunteered were very excited to welcome the children. They exerted a lot of effort repacking food items and placing them into plastic bags to be given out. They also prepared a program to entertain them. Hannah said that they expected the children to be really poor, like what she usually sees in my UNICEF correspondence.
But they were greatly disappointed when they saw that those children were clothed and arrayed in a more extravagant way than they were. Hannah and her classmate-friend were assigned to a girl of about their age. Hannah said that for a while, they gawked at the girl they were supposed to entertain and assist: she was wearing platforms and dangling earrings. (In their school, there are footwear and accessories that aren’t allowed and our Hannah is also taught at home to be simple). Hannah said that the girl didn’t portray the poor girl that she knew and expected, especially when she answered them that she played computer games most of the day back in the “home”. (I always show Hannah the pictures of poor children around the country that UNICEF features in their monthly newsletter. Sometimes, we also watch special programs on TV about the plight of the poor in our country).
I then checked the institution from where those children came from and it was some kind of a formation house and not an orphanage. I tried to downplay my daughter’s disappointment by explaining the purpose of the formation house, that maybe those were children who were not really that poor but they ended up in that place because maybe they ran away from home and they were living in the streets sniffing prohibited substance or committing other juvenile crimes.
Hannah said that the children looked like they didn’t really need the bags filled with canned goods, rice, noodles, etc. And I was thinking in the deeper sense, that is, spiritually. Yes, those bags weren’t really the answer to those young people’s problems.
Often, well-meaning people plan a gift-giving program for the poor especially during Christmas. This is a most admirable deed. But when we, as Christians, think about our real role as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is more to giving than giving materially, and not just for a special time of the year. What are we commanded to give first and foremost? What does the world really need?
We are commissioned to share the Gospel of salvation to “every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23). We are to be Christ’s ministers. The Lord Jesus Christ IS the answer to people’s woes: addictions, problems, poverty, criminality…
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed. (Luke 4:18, emphasis added)
It’s true that the token of our love is to give to those who are in deep need, and by God’s grace, we are going to continue to do that. But foremost, we need to give Christ to the unsaved. The bread that we give to the hungry will last for only a meal with the hopes of momentarily quelling the hunger pangs. But what about the next day? And the next? We can never really fully satisfy the hungry nor fully supply the needs of the needy. But when they have Christ and they learn to put their trust in Him, the Lord will prosper them and bless them in all His loving and caring ways.
I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. (Psalm 37:25)
We do not give only on Christmas. When we live giving the Living Bread, we give continuously.
I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. (John 6:48-51)
Let’s give the world Jesus. For it’s not only the hungry stomachs that need to be filled, but the hungry souls.
May the coming year find us buried deeper in fervent service to God and our sights be farther away from our own selves and nearer to His will and to the things He cares about.
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