2 December 2022
Loving God and others this Christmas: Sacrificial giving and the cost of living crisis
Nearly a third of people are worried about being able to afford Christmas dinner this year, according to a survey commissioned by The Salvation Army. As we face a difficult winter, Tony Daniels suggests a collaborative approach when responding to the cost of living crisis.
How do we continue to Love God and Love Others, even when our own personal needs are being as squeezed as those we’re seeking to help? Let’s be honest: there are no easy answers. However, we can see from the example of Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians 8 that it is possible. Although they were being personally squeezed, by what is simply described as ‘pressure’ (v3 The Message), their above-and-beyond response was nothing short of miraculous, given their own financial circumstances.
‘Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colours: they were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could – far more than they could afford! – pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians’ (2 Corinthians 8:1–4 MSG).
Could the current cost of living crisis be described as ‘fierce troubles’ pushing communities and individuals to their limits? It’s unlikely that this will be read by a wide Macedonian readership, but perhaps a reasonable question to pose is: how were those Christians, described as being ‘desperately poor’ (v2), found pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of other poor Christians?
I think we’ve all heard the phrase ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, but the Macedonian churches’ miraculous act of generosity was all about giving with a supernatural grace, far beyond their means, and so was not about getting at all.
On the contrary, they seemed to have found a deep, God-given joy in bravely looking beyond self-interest and their comfort zones, digging deep and finding a powerfully outward-facing purpose in loving God and loving others. It seems that the ‘loving others’ bit didn’t fall to the wayside when it required some sort of selfless, sacrificial giving; rather, it appears to have been the miraculous divine catalyst to giving generously.
Proverbs 11:14 says: ‘Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counsellors there is victory’ (New American Standard Bible). Could this verse remind us that our personal response does not require an individualistic, non-collaborative response? Quite the contrary: as you pray for guidance and seek an informed, collaborative response, what other families or friends within your community are wanting to make a genuine, outward-facing response and support others during this cost of living crisis?
Is it possible that God is calling you to be the glue that pulls together several individuals or groups to make a unified response in your community? Take courage, pray and have an open heart – it could be you!
Deuteronomy 32:30 says: ‘How could one man chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.’ There is no magic wand or silver bullet, but there may be a miraculous, grace-filled, biblical principle being alluded to here, which reminds us as Christians that responding to any social emergency or crisis is best done in tandem – at a minimum – and at best as an informed and unified collective partnership.
Challenging as the fierce troubles might be, such biblical collaboration can have a potent impact regardless of the situation.
Territorial Director of Community Services
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