As children, we look up to the older people in our lives, whoever that may be, as role models, as examples of the way we ought to be. This is true whether these role models live their lives according to the ways of this world or the ways of God. When we see church leaders in our life gaining wealth by immoral and corrupt means, we will often practice what we have seen believing it is the way to succeed in the world. If we see these same leaders pursue justice and righteousness, and the well-being of others (often over their own), then we will more likely do the same - God’s commandments make this quite clear.
Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 reads, “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise."
God’s command to Israelite parents is to raise their young Israelite children in the ways of the Lord. It is the job of parents and adults to teach the truth and to show the way to the children – we are always watching, good or bad.
This is true of generosity.
By the grace of God, I grew up with both of my parents in the household. While my mom and dad’s very public lives of service at Amor are seen by many people, it is what they did in our home and when it was just us that had the most lasting effects on my life - adopting my sister from Mexico before I was even born, starting a church in urban San Diego and opening our home up to “at-risk” young people, and always making sure that anybody that needed clothing or food or shelter was given those things. What my parents do with Amor Ministries is only a small example of who they are and the lives they live and because of this, any bit of generosity that is within me was learned from them.
I can still remember the day I was at McDonald’s with my mom and we were sitting at the window waiting for our food. We saw a homeless man walk by our car toward the dumpster where he was going to dig for some food to eat. My mom began to cry and as we got our food, she bought a few gift certificates and took them over to the man. To this day, there is not a time that I see a homeless person and do not feel like I must do something or give something – because of my mom’s example.
My parents did not just allow their example to be the final say, they challenged me to follow their example by finding my own ways to be generous. This happened when I was in seventh grade, and my buddy Kyle Kinslow and I came up with the idea that we would combine our birthday celebrations, which were two days apart, with a massive party. Everyone that came brought a brand new toy that would be given to parents that may have been unable to provide any gifts to their children that Christmas, in exchange for a small donation. This money was then used to grow the program the following year.
At a young age, Kyle and I were not only given an example to follow but also challenged to follow that example. (Look at Disrupted Week 34 “Teach Your Children Well,” pages 149-151)
Unfortunately, the words of the prophet, Martin Luther King, Jr. often ring truer than ever during the holiday season for us:
So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a taillight behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice. – except from MLK, Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”
Let his words sink in and disrupt the way things are.
As we make decisions during the holidays, let Jesus Christ be our guide rather than the culture around us, the “status quo.” Perhaps, as individuals and as churches and as the body of Christ, we can become the “headlight leading men to higher levels of justice” rather than a taillight.
This Advent season, as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and of the hope for His return, what are we as parents and adults being an example of to the children in our lives: Extravagant generosity or a bit of consumerist greed?