People Who Need People

Time published an encouraging article for Americans at the turn of the new year. Despite all of the upcoming 2012 stress (elections and economy woes), it reports that our country is more generous than we may realize. In a worldwide charitable giving study, the U.S. ranked #1 in giving personal money and time to organizations and strangers.

Article author, Elaine Chao wrote,

The ranking cannot be dismissed as simply to be expected of the richest nation. The Foundation’s survey report concluded that ‘the countries whose populations are the most likely to give are not necessarily the world’s most affluent.’ Of the top 20 nations in giving, only five are in the top 20 of economic wealth.

In other words, the amount of cash in your pocket doesn’t determine your ability to give. Although the U.S. may be an abundantly wealthy nation, Americans are personally feeling the effects of a harsh economy. Regardless of their situation, though, they have continued to bless others. Yes, the “giving season” is considered over, but don’t let the spirit of charity die in our country. Maybe a few of us are short on cash or short on luck, but we all have something to contribute. Do you have time or talents to give?

C.S. Lewis said,

No one can settle how much we ought to give. The safe rule is to give more than we can spare.

Make the whole 2012 year your season to give! Think of someone you can bless today.



The Treasure Hunt for your Heart

Neither one of my thumbs is green. I’m horrible at gardening, and I despise it like I would an arch nemesis. No, it isn’t relaxing to crawl about on all fours and pull up weeds. No, it’s isn’t rewarding to water my plants and watch them blossom for three weeks. No, it isn’t invigorating to spray chemicals into the ground while mosquitoes suck my blood. There is no satisfaction in this work for me.

So, I have neglected my garden. At first, my negligence wasn’t noticeable- just a few baby weeds and dead leaves here and there. Then, the baby weeds grew into monstrous prickly plants, and the dead leaves became dead flowers that became an entire graveyard of plants. Trust me, it’s a mess. I guess you could say when I look at my neighbor’s perfect garden I’m green with envy.

We’ve all heard that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, yet we’re programmed to believe the opposite. The concept of the American dream, which emphasizes accumulating possessions to attain happiness, seems to be the norm. We’re told with big dreams and hard work there is no limit to what we can achieve. For many Americans, success is measured by the house they live in or the car they drive. But, what about Christians? Should a follower of Christ be defined by their possessions?

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said,

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

Wow! Jesus’ words seem to contradict the dream we’ve been taught. I’m not saying it’s a sin to desire a comfortable life for your family, but an accumulation of “stuff” cannot fill voids in our lives, and it certainly cannot give us an eternal life.

Ever notice how Jesus talked about the poor all the time? Jesus understood our humanity. He knew that we place too much value on transitory things. That’s probably why he talked about the poor so much. According to the American Dream, the poor can often be an example of failure. But Jesus points to the poor to educate those seemingly more fortunate. If we all had less to lose, maybe we’d be more eager to follow Jesus.  After all Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21 that

‘…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’

Depending on the location of your treasure, that can hurt. Take a minute to do inventory of your treasure. Is your heart on Earth with things that will pass away, or in Heaven with Jesus who will reign forever? God spent time searching out your heart, so search for your treasure, and turn your heart back towards him.