Thanks Giving Revisited

Invitation/challenge edited March 2015 – Originally written November 1996

Every time I get on the topic of money, I usually have someone who questions; can't a person have money and also practice Christian principals?  In theory, yes.  There is nothing wrong with money as a tool.  But, for most of us it has become more than just a tool.  We think about it, even agonize over it, chase after it, compromise our beliefs for it, and try to accumulate it as if it were the life force itself.  There are both jokes and wise sayings about the relationship of money and happiness.  Yet, for all our wealth (and even the poorest among us reading this letter is wealthy by world standards) our society is in as big a mess as it ever has been.  The one thing we don't do very well with money, or the things it buys us, is share it.  Oh yes, Americans are always touted for their generosity.  But as a percentage of what we have and consume, it is truly paltry.  It's the perfect example of the poor widow and her coins compared to the Pharisees on a grand scale.  I've included a copy of A THANKS GIVING CHALLENGE as a part of this newsletter.  I understand it is already past Thanksgiving, and I wrestled with Jesus' admonition not to make charitable acts public, but I want to make a point with it.  I left this challenge on the pastor's desk at church over three weeks before Thanksgiving, with an unsigned note to present it as he thought best. The sole reference to it in the ensuing four weeks was a brief reference the week of Thanksgiving that someone in the congregation had given half their food to the food bank.  I think the world of my pastor, and think he does an excellent job.  But his is a common reaction.  People seem to respond as if I personally am asking them to do such things, and that it is asking too much.  Far from it.  I tone down most of what I put out, from the strong words I hear in Scripture.  The words, the instructions, are from Jesus, the Christ, the One that Christians profess to be following.  Unless we are reading from different bibles, something is out of whack.  That kind of a ThanksGiving should be commonplace among Christians, not unusual.  Food banks should never be running out of food, as ours was, in a "Christian" community.  The shelter program helping the homeless should never have to wonder if it will survive financially in the next year, as ours in Eaton County does. 

I see two extremes.  Christians who put on a varsity letter jacket with a big "C" on it, but are only willing to wear it in public on Sunday mornings (maybe not even then), and think that is the extent of their obligation.  And, Christians, and their organizations, who are trying to "beat" the rest of society into submission to their "superior moral positions." 

If Christians will instead start trying to live a little of what they say they believe; the homeless, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoners would all see living examples of what Christianity can do when accepted and lived.  That would be worth more than all the rhetoric of individuals and organizations combined. 

Invariably, when I start talking like this I am confronted by someone who challenges that I am standing in judgment of others, or thinking that I am better than others.  Sorry, but no go.  I am not a saint.  I am not even an exceptionally "good" Christian.  I struggle with how to relate to money.  I struggle with hospitality versus personal space issues.  I struggle with what is valid God-given sexuality versus worldly, including religious, distortion.  I struggle with anger, and prejudice, and yes even judgmentalism, and materialism, and so much more, just like you.  Indeed, if anyone visits the Center expecting to find a Holy Man, they are going to be sorely disappointed.  Yet, I see there is so much that can be done with even a little change in attitude.  And a little obedience to Jesus' instruction.  I am dumbstruck at times that people see my choices as unusual or extreme Christianity, when I see they are just listening to what Jesus really said. 


In Luke 3:10-11, John the Baptist, in response to the question “what then shall we do,” says “he who has two coats, let him share with him who has none (give one to the man who has none in the Good News Bible); and he who has food, let him do likewise.”  Jesus voiced similar directives throughout the Gospels, carrying it even further at times to include giving away everything.  But in one instance He had invited Himself to dinner at the home of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector.  Zacchaeus, apparently quite inspired by Jesus’ presence, stood up and promised to give half of all his belongings to the poor (Luke 19:1-10), to which Jesus responded quite favorably. 

This challenge to you, as a professed follower of Jesus, is not about all your belongings.  It is just about food.  After all, this is what an American Thanksgiving has come to be all about.  Well, that and football.  I am a member here, and I would not challenge you to do anything I was not willing to do myself.  So, today my wife and I took half of our non-perishable commercially packaged food to the Grand Ledge Food Bank.  They were very thankful.  NOW, I challenge you who claim to be followers to do the same. 

We are not talking about leftovers here.  Or about things you decided you do not like.  Or about something extra you went to the store to buy as cheaply as you could just to donate.  In Luke 21:1-4 Jesus lifts up as example the poor widow who only put in a few coins, saying ”truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance . . . “  No, I am talking about the groceries you just bought yesterday for yourself and your family.  I am talking about the stuff in the pantry, or basement, you have stocked up on for the coming weeks and holidays.  This means taking two of those four cans of Campbell’s tomato soup, and absolutely everything else you have more than one of, and sharing what you intended to live on.  If you do not have two identical items, give a similar one for every one that you keep. 

That is the challenge.  Half of all your (non-perishable commercially packaged) food.  Bag it up.  Take it to the local food bank. If that is not convenient for you, bring it to the church.  I will make sure someone gets it there.  If we have so many real Christians respond to this that the food bank cannot handle it all, I will make sure it gets to the City Rescue Mission in Lansing.  Just do it! 

There are actually two challenges you face in this as a Christian.  The first is if you will do it at all.  Making an action response directly to Jesus’ directives.  But the second is, can you do it with joy.  As a true THANKS GIVING.  Or, will you do it grudgingly, trying to find ways to copout, shortchange, or fudge in the process.  Either way, I suggest you will experience a wonderful sense of truly being a follower in the doing of this.  If your meals are a little slimmer for the next few weeks as a result, smile as you remember you are among those who are special and close to the Master.  For you have done as he commanded you to do. 

Who am I to suggest this of you?  I choose to remain anonymous.  The focus needs to be on the one who actually issued the challenge 2000 years ago.  Hope to see you in heaven, around the Master’s Thanksgiving banquet table. 


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