The fire side chat. This phrase conjures images in our minds of a quiet evening spent in the company of family, friends or people whose presence we enjoy, surrounded by all that is inviting. We probably come across this sort of image more frequently during Christmas and winter as we peruse magazines or watch images pass before us in the comfort of our own living rooms before the very fires we have kindled to stave off the cold.
The fire side chat also suggests a time when someone has something significant to say but wants to express themselves in a manner that visually communicates intimacy, kindness and warmth. This is the context in which I want you to receive this post. Perhaps you will actually be sitting before a roaring fire gently scrolling on your tablet or you will have to imagine the context as you sit at a desk aggravating your neck and back muscles by continuing to practice poor posture (note to self: stop hunching over the keyboard). Either way, what follows is a serious reflection, but one that I hope to deliver with warmth of care for the congregation entrusted to me.
If I might continue with the fire side image, I fondly remember deep winter nights before a large blazing fire in a cottage in northern Ontario where my family and I would spend the Christmas / New Year holiday. On one of these nights the topic of generosity came up and I remember asking my parents what it meant to be generous. Was the widow giving her 2 cents – literally all she had – a prescription for Christians to live in poverty? What about the rich young ruler who was told to sell all he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus? Are all Christians supposed to do that? How does that comport with God blessing king Solomon with unimaginable wealth?
What followed was an extended discussion in which my parents took the opportunity to probe for possible responses from each member of the family, but eventually my mother pressed my father to offer his opinion. I don’t remember everything he said, but I have never forgotten one sentence that struck me then and has stayed with me ever since: “One way to measure your generosity is to ask yourself if your quality of life would be affected if you stopped giving.” In other words, generosity inspired by love of God and neighbor means I cannot live (or even save) to the full potential of my income.
Yes, this is the time of our December missions offering and, yes, we currently have a budget shortfall, but I am not making an appeal for more money. I am making an appeal to examine your life in light of generosity driven by the two great commandments. After all, “our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)