Poverty; December 24, 2022

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

We seldom think about the poverty of the Holy Family, but it’s undeniable from the accounts. As Paul said, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) Americans have very little empathy for that. What is considered “the poverty line” in the US today would have been unimaginable luxury for most of human history. Getting used to luxury can be very dangerous spiritually, as America certainly demonstrates today. Right now, “peak Christmas” is equal to “peak materialism” for many people, which is why the current economic situation produces such angst. Jesus had a good bit to say about this in His ministry, telling us to “store up treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:20) He didn’t ignore physical needs, but told us, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:32-33) On the spiritual level, which is what really counts, Joseph and Mary were far more “wealthy” than Herod in his castle. Actually, from our viewpoint, there was far less gap in their “creature comforts” than we would imagine, since Herod didn’t have hot and cold running water, or a whole list of other things we take completely for granted. As many studies have shown, gratitude is the key to happiness, and far too many people have forgotten how to be grateful.

Of course this applies to me as well. Over the course of my life I have had times when we weren’t sure how we could pay the rent, put gas in the car, and put food on the table. We even had a car repossessed! However, God met our genuine needs, and I am deeply grateful. At this point our bank account looks healthier than I think it has ever been, at precisely a point when I feel that is less important than I ever have! I would be happy for those I care about to have this same attitude, but lecturing or feeling “holier-than-thou” would certainly be counter-productive. As a teacher and a pastor I am in a position of influence, and I need to be careful that my influence points people to their Creator, to trust and rely on Him in grateful stewardship. I don’t have the wisdom to do that properly, but He will provide that too as I ask Him, (James 1:5) so I’m not to be anxious. As He has told me, I’m to rest, relax, and rejoice, whatever my bank account looks like!

Father, thank You for this reminder. I feel like a bit of a Grinch, being so anti-materialistic at Christmas. May my words and my actions build people up and not tear them down, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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