Every year at Christmas time I feel the same familiar stress of being overly busy, underpaid, and always in a hurry. Lately, I also have remembered one of the best ways to get rid of stress is to focus on other people. While Christmas is normally a time to celebrate generosity with our friends and family, I’ve found expanding my circle of generosity to even people I don’t know has helped the holidays feel more like holy days.
In his book “Generous Justice,” Tim Keller described three ways Christians can and should help poor and oppressed people find justice. He wrote:
“God does not want us to merely give the poor perfunctory help, but to ponder long and hard about how to improve their entire situation.”
Keller’s framework for generous justice looked like this: relief, development, and social reform.
A good example of relief is Operation Christmas Child (OCC). They provide immediate supplies and necessary items to children around the world. The OCC boxes don’t change any of the major circumstances in a child’s life, but they certainly help them find comfort and rest for awhile.
Compassion International is an example of an organization that provides development. They create and fund centers for children and their families to learn new skills and knowledge that will help them escape the cycle of poverty. The development they do won’t prevent others from falling into poverty, but it is life changing for the people they are developing.
Social reform is the hardest action to take because it requires fighting against insidious, seemingly invisible circumstances that leads people into dependency and poverty. However, we can partake in all three activities this Christmas (and beyond) by using the power, privilege, and prestige that we already have to promote joy, justice, and hope for people around the world.
How to use my economic power to provide relief, development, and social reform
The easiest and most obvious way to help people around the world is by giving money. Giving to organizations who provide relief and development to our neighbors and those around the world is a great way to spread joy. Make sure any organization you donate money to is actually using your gift to enrich the lives others. Places like Charity Navigator, Consumer Reports, and GiveWell can help you find trust worthy charities. Two of our favorite organizations are Cure International and Gospel for Asia.
But donating money is not the only way we can use our money to benefit others. Where we buy gifts can also impact communities of people around the world. It’s easy to use our economic power to find the best deals and the most convenience. However, our savings and comfort often come at the expense of someone else. Buying from fair trade organizations like Fair Trade Winds, Servv, or Ten Thousand Villages can help individuals around the world escape poverty by transforming the economic systems around them.
How to use my social privilege to provide development and social reform.
Using our money in generous ways probably feels familiar to many of us. But using our social privilege can often feel a little bit more uncomfortable. All of us have some sort of social privilege and advantage in our life. Because of these advantages, we can use our social media profiles and dinner conversations to promote justice and hope this holiday season.I'm going to use my economic power, social privilege, and spiritual capital to spread joy and hope this Christmas. Click To Tweet
Warning: Advocating for those less fortunate, whether they live on the same block or the opposite side of the globe, can lead to many awkward online and in person conversations. It doesn’t mean we have to argue or get mad. Instead of challenging our friends and family to support something, we can invite them. Everyone loves a good invitation.
After all, many people have no idea fair trade organizations exist. Others may not understand what it’s like to be poor, or how our clothes, electronics, and toys affect our environment and the people that make them. Being a voice for the voice-less has an ancient, well-documented tradition within Christianity, and Christmas is a a great time for each one of us to make it a personal tradition.
How to use my spiritual capital to transform my neighbors, community, nation, and world into realms of justice.
Do you know your neighbors?.. Not just their names, but who they are – what they want, need, or enjoy? I don’t.
But I’m fully convinced knowing our neighbors and living life with them is one of the most effective ways to change the world. The spiritual capital we have because of Jesus allows us to spread genuine hope and joy. And everybody needs genuine hope and joy. Because of Jesus, we have the spiritual reserves to spare compassion, empathy, joy, and hope to everyone this Christmas season. We can acknowledge the pain and stress many people experience this time of year and still reflect the love of Jesus to them. We can love them with a smile, a gift, an acknowledged blinker, or a hug.
My prayer for me, and all of us this year, is that we will make room for the spirit of God to move us from complacency and habit into awareness and action. I pray we can use our money, our relationships, and our internal hope to remind everyone around us of the truth that Christmas holds: God became human in order to create a new world full of joy, justice, and hope realized.