Giving is not unique to Christmas. Many other cultures give generously to others at the times of their major festivals, but of course what is unique for Christians is our message that God gave first – “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son…” (John 3:16).
Just as people give reciprocal gifts at Christmas, God’s generosity inspires us to give back to him – not out of obligation, or a misplaced desire to repay the debt, but out of sheer gratitude for the exuberance of his own generosity. We can never repay this generosity and one popular prayer acknowledges this: “All things come from you, and of your own we do give you”, referencing 1 Chronicles 29:14.
At this time of year much of this generosity rightly overflows to those who have little: the residents of refugee camps; the homeless and destitute in our major urban centres; those fleeing from natural disasters; the elderly who may often be alone. This year there is another group joining them – the overseas mission worker.
Not that they’re actually homeless (yet), but financial challenges in major donor countries over the last decade have reduced giving to mission workers significantly. Rising unemployment has cut giving. Financial uncertainty has cut giving. Lower returns on pension yields have cut giving. People in the west feel that they are not as wealthy as they were, and are worried about their future, so there is a tendency for them to cut back on giving, rather than “giving beyond their ability, despite their [perceived] deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).
This year the situation has worsened because of the fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum. Since this affects every penny sent by UK churches to mission workers overseas, each mission worker might have seen their income fall by over 10% in six months, depending on where they live. This could be the difference between continuing in mission and returning home. For a mission worker on an allowance, say, of £18,000 a year, that’s £150/month wiped out.
“Where is their faith?” you may ask. It’s in your pockets (see our blog Was Hudson Taylor Wrong?) So please give generously this Christmas to mission workers – and keep on giving generously throughout the year.