It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Or is It?

We’re entering the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Time to celebrate!

This time of the year means family, food and football for a lot of people. It means the changing of seasons and the leaves turning the beautiful colors of fall. It means parades, parties and presents. And snow! At least for those of us who live in the northeastern part of the United States.

As the song says, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Or is it?

Not for everyone.

In all of the festivities it’s easy to forget that we are blessed. It’s even easier to forget those who aren’t.

There are so many people around the world who won’t enjoy the holidays the way you do – and some of them are just outside your back door.

The Bible has a lot to say about how we as Christians are to relate to the poor, especially in the book of Proverbs.

He who has mercy on the poor, happy is he (Prov 14:21).

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy (Prov 14:31).

He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished (Prov 17:5).

He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given (Prov 19:17).

Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard (Prov 21:13).

Check out James 2:2-9 for a longer New Testament perspective on how we are to treat poor people.

There is a special place in the heart of God for poor people and there should be a special place in our hearts as well.

This holiday season find a way to bless someone who is less fortunate than you. Take a holiday meal to a poor family. Buy some presents for some children who won’t get any presents otherwise. Serve a meal at your local rescue mission.

There are many ways that you can help someone celebrate the holidays who is dreading this time of the year.

It’s not a matter of time – we all have the same 24 hours in the day. It’s not a matter of money (maybe it is for some) – we all have enough. It’s simply a matter of priority.

Make helping someone a priority this holiday season.

The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all (Prov 22:2).

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve

 

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Resisting Compassion Fatigue

In my last post I wrote about Compassion Fatigue – the emotional weariness that we feel from overexposure to the plight of the poor and needy. In America we are exposed to so many appeals – many, if not all of them, legitimate needs – that we become insensitive to the suffering of people around the world. We become indifferent, even calloused from seeing too many starving, malnourished babies, too many victims of disasters, too many people picking through the garbage dumps of the world to find something to eat. With remote in hand it’s too easy to change the channel so we’re not confronted by another emotional appeal. It’s easier to watch a commercial about the newest BMW than to confront the poverty of a starving child in Uganda.

But as Christians we’ve been given a responsibility, a mandate to care for the poor and needy. The Apostle James makes our responsibility clear:

My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead! (James 2:14-17)

As Christians we don’t have the option of ignoring the plight of the poor. Our faith demands action. But we’re still human and that means that we can still suffer from overexposure to suffering; we are still prone to Compassion Fatigue.

So what do you do when Compassion Fatigue sets in? Here are some simple steps:

First confess it for what it is – sin (1 John 1:9). Any time we fail to live in agreement with the Word of God (see James 2 above) it is sin.

Second agree with God that everything we have has come from His good hand and in reality still belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1, James 1:17) – this removes the barrier of ownership which often leads to selfishness.

Third ask God to give you a heart that reflects His heart (Deuteronomy 10:18, 15:11, 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:31, Luke 6:36, Acts 20:35 – for those who protest the use of OT passages that related specifically to Israel I would simply point out that the heart of God has not changed).

Fourth, realize that God has not asked you to solve every problem in the world. You can’t feed all of the hungry or cloth all of the naked or provide for all of the needy. So, stop feeling guilty – unless of course you are not feeding any of the hungry or clothing any of the naked or providing for any of the needy.

Fifth, rejoice that God has given you an opportunity to minister His love, in His name, by His grace.

Don’t allow Compassion Fatigue to rob you of the joy of giving (1 Corinthians 9:7).

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Compassion Fatigue

Not long ago I came across the phrase Compassion Fatigue. It stood out because it’s a term that I had never heard before. Compassion Fatigue is an interesting concept. It’s caused by too many appeals for financial aid. The result is insensitivity to the suffering of people – we become indifferent to the plight of the poor and needy.

Those of us in America have probably experienced it on some level. What was your reaction the last time your phone rang and on the other end was someone from a charitable organization asking you to make another donation? For you readers from other countries this happens on a regular basis in my country. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of groups that collect money for military veterans, local and national police associations, health organizations, drug and alcohol abuse, children and youth – and the list goes on.

We are also exposed on a daily basis through television news broadcasts (and commercials) to the poverty and suffering of people – especially children in Third World countries; to the ravages of war and the squalor of refugee camps; to the devastation and heartache of the victims of hurricanes, typhoons, and earthquakes even in the remotest corners of the world. If it happens, we know about it and it isn’t long before someone is asking us to give.

Add to that your local church that asks you to give each week for their ministries, to support missionaries, to send someone on a short-term missions trip, to help local para-church ministries and you begin to get an idea of what compassion fatigue might look like.

The majority of these organizations asking for money provide a legitimate service and each one has to raise its own funds – sometimes millions of dollars. And the only way to get those funds is to ask. All of that is good, but there are some who fear that America has reached a point of fatigue – compassion fatigue and we are moving from a culture of generosity to a culture of insensitivity. We have seen too much poverty, too much suffering, too many hungry children.

For the Church of Jesus Christ this is a real problem. We are taught to give (Luke 6:38); to remember the poor and needy (Proverbs 14:31, Galatians 2:10); to be generous (2 Corinthians 9:6) and to do it all cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). But most Christians have limited resources. You cannot give to everyone who asks for help. You probably cannot even give to every organization that you would like to help.

So what’s the answer? How do you decide which appeal to respond too and which to ignore? That’s a difficult question and the response will probably be different for every Christian. The important issue for the child of God is not to allow Compassion Fatigue to set in and begin to dictate your giving. Once it does you have crossed the line between cheerful giving and giving that is driven by a sense of obligation and duty.

Next Week: Some thoughts on resisting Compassion Fatigue.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve