Post-it Note #32: First Century vs Twenty-First Century Living

I have such mixed emotions about the holidays.  I love Thanksgiving, although it seems the retail stores want to skip right over it these days.  Instead of starting Black Friday on Friday they want to move it to Thursday.  The message is clear…….let’s not stop and be thankful for what we have, let’s just get more, more, more.  Make your wish list, surely there’s something you HAVE to have.

When I was younger I just loved the whole holiday season leading up to Christmas.  As I grow older, I see the commercialism and hoopla and it just makes me sad.  I have 5 kids, ages 3-12, so I don’t see myself boycotting Christmas anytime soon, but I hope to reshape our thinking some about it.  Wearing a pin that says, “Jesus is the reason for the season” is not enough.  I’ve been reading in the book of Acts lately and I’m really struck by how the 1st century church lived compared to our 21st century church.

Acts 2 has this to say: “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Acts 4 says this: “32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”

That is some powerful image.  One heart.  One mind.  God’s grace was so powerfully at work in the body of Christ that there was no need among the believers.  Not one needy person.  This time of year is like a war.  We feel the pull to donate to causes, help the needy, purchase Angel Tree gifts for children and give Toys for Tots.  But at the same time, we’re attempting to figure out how to buy gifts for everyone on our list.  A list that is probably made up of people who don’t need one more thing.  Often we do it because it is expected.

What would life look like if we lived like the 1st century church instead of the 21st century one?  I can’t even imagine it.  If we stopped buying into the worlds version of Christmas and simply met the needs of people all year-long.  If we stopped buying gifts for those who are so “hard to buy for” (because they don’t need anything) and fed someone, bought someone a coat, paid someone’s power bill.

My girls and I are going shopping for a little girl to get an Angel Tree gift.  Angel Tree provides gifts for a child whose parent(s) have been imprisoned.  I think it’s great to give a gift to a child and demonstrate love to them when they might otherwise feel left out, lonely or forgotten.  But buying a gift for an unknown child at Christmas just doesn’t cut it.  Christmas time isn’t the only time there are needs.  We need to start doing something different.

I’m just tired of all this hoopla y’all.  Aren’t you tired?  I mean, life is hard.  It sometimes seems too much to bear.  People are hurting all around us.  People we love are caught in sin, addictions, facing tragedies, dying for crying out loud and we want to wash it all over with “Christmas” cheer so we can feel better about things.  What if we just lived every day like the early church, in the power of God’s spirit, with such grateful hearts for all we have that we’re actually willing to give some of our possessions away and share?

I think the key to this is a thankful heart.  When we realize that all we have comes from God, then we’re not so worried about hanging onto it.  When we realize that we are not entitled to luxury and that we have a responsibility to our fellow man and the poor, then we notice the needs of others and will do something about it.

James 2 says:  “14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

The more we are thankful, the more we give.  The more we give, the more God blesses and the more we can give.  I wish Acts 4:33 could be said of us:  “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them.”

If you are not needy.  Be grateful.  If you know somebody needy, then help them.  Even if you need to sacrifice a “want” to fulfill their “need”.  Even if Aunt Trudy puts you on her black list for not getting her a gift.  Even if Thanksgiving dinner has to go without some of the trimmings and you can only bake 4 kinds of pies!!!  Let God be glorified.  Start with a grateful heart.  Be thankful this week.  Don’t miss Thanksgiving in an effort to get more, cook a huge dinner, go shopping, or cheer for your team.  Thanksgiving brings joy and a joyful heart is the key to 1st century church living in the 21st century.

I read a church sign this week as I was driving that said, “What if you woke up tomorrow with ONLY the things you were thankful for today?”  Wow!  Be grateful.  Most of us are only a pay check or 2 from being the “poor”.  If you have it, be thankful.  And help those who don’t.  It could be you.

Thank you God for every good gift.  We know it comes from you.  By the world’s standards we are extravagantly rich.  Help us to share with those around us.  Force us to redefine the Thanksgiving and Christmas season if necessary.  May it be all about you.  For real.  Not just with our words.  Be glorified in your church Lord Jesus.  You paid an incredible price for us.  Help us not to fail You.  – Amen