While there’s seemingly no escape from the onslaught of consumerism during the Christmas season, Cath Taylor unwraps the act of giving in a theological context.
Australians give a lot of gifts—about $8.9 billion worth last year, apparently. But how good were they? A jaw-dropping $500 million worth ended up back on eBay within a month and quite a few of them are probably nestled somewhere in landfill.
As Christians, giving and generosity is central to our identity. We are not only good at donating but at reliably providing mince-based meals in a crisis and giving our time for the school fete.
I have a hunch, though, that the early church saw giving as being about much more than “one off” acts of charity. In Acts 2:42, “Everyone was together and shared everything in common, so that no one would have need.”
This was not about giving “spare cash” or “something for the less fortunate”. This was about choosing to live beside others as brothers and sisters, fully invested in their lives and wellbeing.
Nor was this something new cooked up by Jesus’ followers. The Torah had always taken the approach that community resources were to be shared with dignity. The “poverty trap” was to be avoided by keeping back part of the crop to be harvested by those in need; all debt was cancelled and land redistributed every seven years so that families didn’t fall into a cycle of either spiralling poverty or wealth.
Life in Christ is not just about good giving. It’s about building long-term relationships that care for people.
The Uniting Church in Australia has partnerships with church communities in Asia, Africa and the Pacific that stretch back over a hundred years. We pray for their leaders, we visit their homes and they visit ours.
At Christmas, UnitingWorld’s “Everything in Common” gifts support communities which are cared for by people who will not simply hand out a food parcel, a goat or a chicken and move on: our church partners provide God’s love and hope alongside tools to overcome poverty and live with dignity. These gifts are part of what it means to be God’s community.
As you make choices about giving this Christmas, think about the depth of the investment you’re making in the lives of others. Take the opportunity to pray for, visit and learn from our global brothers and sisters, or provide ongoing sponsorship for Christian leaders through UnitingWorld.
Our identity as followers of Jesus is about more than a quick and emotional gift to “the poor”. It’s about being part of long-term relationships that allow every person to live life to the full.
Cath Taylor has a BMin, BA, Grad Dip Ed, one husband, two daughters, three cats and a job she loves, working for the Uniting Church in Australia through UnitingWorld.