I pack school lunches every. single. morning.
And I have for nearly ten years now. Last week, as I stood in my kitchen, staring down at the empty lunch boxes on my kitchen counter, I got a little grumpy about having to do it again. “I’m so over making lunches.” But, I cobbled together a collection of leftovers, juice pouches, baby carrots and the cursory apple and sent my people on their way.
Just a couple hours later, I stood at the stainless gates that are my refrigerator and bemoaned that there was nothing I’d like to eat. Nevertheless, I rummaged through and found something to throw in my gullet.
I just wasn’t feeling it.
It had been a long day in the middle of a very full week. Youth group loomed on the calendar horizon, an unwelcome commitment on this particular Wednesday. As an introvert, large group gatherings tap everything in me, so going ‘empty’ isn’t a great way to begin an evening of ministry. And 60 middle and high schoolers (whom I’ve come to genuinely adore) are a tougher crowd than most.
Whether you’re studying Amos with us or not, you’ll find some relevance in his words from chapter four. Feel free to join the dialog in the comments, too!
Are you calling me a cow?
Amos’ opening line in chapter four initially pulled me up short, much as I expect it did his hearers way back when.
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
— Amos 4:1 NIV
They were so little.
I watched my daughters, mere toddlers, playing near each other in the family room on the carpet, each with a toy of her choosing.
My youngest asked my eldest for the bauble she was currently enjoying. This was an unwelcome request, so eldest daughter searched the sprawl of toys in orbit around her. She selected one and handed it ever so sweetly to her younger sister. One might expect me to have been proud at that moment, delighting in the so-called sharing that had just taken place.
If Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus (and it does), how can we give a gift to Him?
At first the answer may not seem obvious, but with a little searching of the scriptures, Jesus tells us exactly what’s on His birthday list this year… and every year:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
— Matthew 25:37-40 ESV
When we feed or clothe a stranger, or visit someone in the hospital or prison, we have blessed the King. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m not bothered by the gift-giving at Christmas. But I do hope that we give with a sense of purpose: to honor Him.
Perhaps this Christmas consider giving to someone in need — an individual or to an organization that meets the needs of individuals — as a way to give to Jesus. For example, our family loves cycling, so one year we donated money to purchase a bicycle for an itinerant pastor in Africa through a para-church organization. Another year we specifically outfitted a child who couldn’t afford clothing that met his school’s dress code.
No gift has thrilled me as much to give as the ones I’ve given to Him in such a way.
I like to think He enjoys ‘opening’ them, too.
I share these stories as examples of ways to give in this fashion, not to have our deeds seen by men. I’d love to hear your ideas and stories so that all of us can be similarly inspired. Will you consider sharing in the comments?
It’s a line from a song in one of my favorite movies, The Sound of Music. Though it’s not the intended meaning, I can’t help thinking it aptly describes much of ‘giving’ that goes on at Christmas…
“Brown paper packages tied up with strings…”
We’ve turned the page on the calendar from November to December and simultaneously shifted from being thankful for all God has given us to setting out to acquire more. (Though we’re shopping to give to others, most of our purchases end up under our very own roofs, don’t they?)