How God Gives

I was helping out a few years ago at “Christmas Cheer,” the Salvation Army’s annual event whereby disadvantaged families in Central Ohio receive groceries for their own holiday feast and a toy for each child in the home. There was the good-natured chatting with the steady stream of folks—engagement is my favorite part of the evening—and plenty of excitement about Christmas. At one point, a man came through the line, accompanying a friend but not filling a cart of his own. A certain resignation contoured his face as he explained to me, “I’m homeless. I can’t take anything because I have no place to keep it.” Who knows how this man got to such a point—addictions, mental illness, exploitation, a series of poor decisions? But this was poverty.

God cares for the poor. His heart is with them and his actions are for them—mind, body and soul. Writes the apostle James to Christian believers, “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”1 This is not to suggest poverty itself is a means to heaven, rather faith is, and for many, coming to the end of our own means is the beginning of reliance on God. Could there be a more earnest plea of “Give us this day our daily bread”2 than when uttered from lips of those who have none at all? Then how does God answer these petitions of the poor?

He says “yes” through people. And not just those with means, for like the widow who put into the temple treasury all she had, two copper coins,3 those who have the least are often the most generous with what they have. God will indeed “deliver the needy who cry out,”4 and when we so pour ourselves into others, we do so not only to them, but to Christ himself. For He will one day say to some, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink . . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”5 This is a promise; it will happen. So, whether you give to the poor directly or through a ministry you know to be responsible and effective in helping them emerge from poverty’s grasp, do so eagerly, joyfully and expectantly, for the day comes when we will stand as one before Him who unites us in Himself—Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Father, give me an undivided heart, that my love for You would blossom in generosity toward others. Lead me in Your ways in heart and in action. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 James 2:5 ESV
2 Matthew 6:11 ESV
3 Luke 21:1-4
4 Psalm 72:12
5 Matthew 26:35, 40


What a Legacy

Monday marked 57 years since my father died of a heart attack. He was 46; I was seven. I carry some mental snapshots of him, a collection of recollections that I peruse from time to time in the album of my mind. Yet one of Dad’s greatest influences on me throughout the years comes through a certain montage of memories that blend into this abiding impression of the man: Dad valued people and treated them with equal dignity and respect. How could a boy of my tender age possibly understand this? Whether people were paupers or professionals, Dad greeted and engaged them with the same interest and esteem. It showed through the giving of his time, the acceptance in his smile, the warmth of his humor, the lending of an ear, and the approval in his eyes, those blue-tinted windows of his soul. They were the same for all. And children see these things.

Among Solomon’s vast collection of proverbs resides this gem: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.”1 God does not base our eternal worth on our temporary wealth, be it great or small, but in that He has made us in His image. The Word is replete with admonitions not to favor the rich over the poor, for “whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”2 Yet God also commands us against bias in either extreme: “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”3 For His ways of good and right are the same for all, and we all are accountable to Him.

God is our maker; we matter to Him. Then because we matter to Him, we honor each other in thought, word and deed. This is what I saw in my father’s regard for people. What a legacy.

Father, You love others as You love me. Grace me to regard people not according to the ways of this world, but to see them and to serve them as Your own. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Proverbs 22:2
2 Proverbs 14:31
3 Leviticus 19:15


When Culture Cancels

What do you do when you lose the support of those around you because of their intolerance of what you believe, speak or act? What do you do when your beliefs and outward expression of them expose you to public shaming? In other words, how do we live in a cancelation culture? Cancelation itself is not new, I suppose. We could think back on the McCarthy trials of the 1950s and see individuals effectively “canceled,” most notably from the film industry, because of their leftist political views. Yet even while looking back on this chapter with regret, we perpetuate the practice for those espousing views more to the right. (It is a bit ironic.) Though social media has broadened its reach, social silencing is not new.

What have changed to some degree in contemporary culture are the mores we venerate and those we persecute. Ethical standards will always exist, and people will remain judgmental toward those who offend them. Yet in some ways to some people, God’s Word has become less foundational to the understanding and acceptance of what is right and true. The exclusivity of the gospel—“No one comes to the Father but through me”1, 2—and Biblical authority on human sexuality, for instance, have become passe in the minds of many and offensive to others. Isaiah’s prophetic warnings resound still today to all who will hear them: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”3

How then do we live before the prospects of personal humiliation and cancelation? Our natural tendencies might lead us to one or both of two ill-advised extremes: cowing into submission for conditional acceptance, or standing up for righteousness in an unrighteous way. God would have us do neither. Rather, we remain focused on His Word, speaking it and relying on its power and truth, for “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”4 We stand firm in the perpetual promise of Jesus, “Blessed are those who are persecuted,”5 and go forth in this companion command from Paul, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”6 And in all circumstances, we remain “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”7

Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep speaking. Keep loving.

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”8 —Jesus, to the disciples

Father, send your Spirit of truth today, that we would remember Your Word; strengthen us also through Him, that we would be bold and remain faithful to You. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 John 14:6
2 See also Acts 4:12
3 Isaiah 5:20 NASB
4 Psalm 19:7
5 Matthew 5:10
6 Romans 12:14
7 2 Timothy 2:1
8 John 15:20 ESV