The Season of Charity??

Santa Claus just came through my office.  Actually, it was a non-bearded, UPS guy who was wearing brown instead of red.  His belly did not shake appropriately, either.  But, he was delivering a Santa gift that will magically appear in my living room on Christmas morning.

As a parent, it makes me feel good to give gifts to my children.  I can’t wait to see the excitement on their faces as they walk through the childhood wonder of Christmas.  And let’s be honest.  Most of us parents enjoy playing with the toys as much as the kids do. 

Christmas…even with its consumeristic overtones…can be fun.  And to take that thought a step further, charity can be fun.  It’s enjoyable to give a gift to someone else.  Scientific studies regularly confirm that giving is good for us.  It can lower blood pressure; it can help kidney function; it can ease depression and even improve our self-image.  So, charitable giving is a good thing that gets accentuated during this season every year.


The charity world has a problem.[i]  While we like to pat ourselves on the back for our acts of charity, they really do not match the giving ways of God.  Charity is something that happens in a moment; it has a beginning and an end.  But, the incarnation reminds us that God’s giving is not confined to a single act.  His giving is more akin to “full-life” generosity.  It doesn’t ebb and flow with the seasons.  Instead, it’s part of His nature.  Generous love can essentially define every one of His actions toward us.

Over the last few years, GenerousChurch has surveyed almost 13,000 church members about their giving.  Interestingly, over 30% of those people noted that they considered their financial giving as their way of serving people in need.  In other words, they have bought into the idea of “charitable giving.”  They have become comfortable with a style of giving which, in reality, is keeping them an arms length away from experiencing God’s full-life generosity.  They prefer occasional acts of generosity to a lifestyle of generosity.

This discussion of charity versus generosity may seem like pointless semantics.  But, vocabulary matters.  The words we choose tend to influence our actions. 

That takes me back to our Christmas discussion.  As a parent, I don’t want to use this Christmas season to merely enjoy the momentary pleasures of charity.  And I don’t want my children to think that charitable Christmas acts are the end goal.  Further, I don’t want my monetary gifts to overshadow my non-material giving in their eyes.  Instead, I want them to see full-life generosity being lived out.  I want the Christmas season to become an extension of the way that I live the rest of the year.  And I want my gift giving to match the heart of God. 

So, maybe this shouldn’t be the season of charity.  Maybe it should be the beginning of a new way of generous living.


How do you maintain a mindset of generosity throughout the year?    

[i] C.S. Lewis noted that the word charity has changed over time.  In Mere Christianity, he says, “’Charity’ means now what used to be called ‘alms’…Originally it had a much wider meaning… Charity means ‘Love in the Christian sense,’ but love, in the Christian sense does not mean an emotion.  It is not a state of feelings, but of the will.” 

Lewis concludes these thoughts by reminding us of how deep God’s “charity” is for us.  He notes, “Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not.  It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him” (pp. 115, 118).  In that sense, the word “charity” is closely akin to the idea of full-life generosity that is seen in those who are imitating the ways of God.