The Common Good

Starting the 'Christmas Tithe'

Sojomail - November 29, 2012

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Starting the 'Christmas Tithe'

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support
Sojourners

Religion is far too judgmental. Surveys show that many people think that, especially a new generation of young people who — more than ever before — are checking the “none of the above” religious affiliation box. 

I get it. But religious leaders tend to be judgmental about many of the wrong things; they are not making moral judgments on the important questions. So I am going to be judgmental, as a religious leader, about something I just read.

A recent Harris International and World Vision poll showed that Americans plan to spend more this Christmas season on consumer gifts than they did last year, but give less to charities and ministries that help the poor. Many say they are less likely to give a charitable gift as a holiday present — a drop from 51 percent to 45 percent.

So we will have more Christmas presents this year, but less help for the poor. While retailers, economists, and politicians may rejoice at the news about higher consumer spending this year, the lower levels of support for the ones Jesus called “the least of these” should legitimately bring some moral judgments from the faith community. 

Indeed, the Matthew 25 scripture that this text is taken from is one of the few, and most, judgmental passages in all the New Testament. About some things, Jesus was judgmental. The Gospel clearly says that how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner is how we treat Jesus. That’s pretty judgmental, especially when you go on to read what will happen to those who ignore Jesus in this way. 

But rather than just being judgmental, let’s do something about it. Let’s start a "Christmas Tithe.” Let’s spread the idea to our kids, our families, our friends and neighbors, and to the members of our congregations. Let’s keep it simple: 

Keep track of all our holiday spending for gifts this year, and then tithe a percentage of that amount to an organization that directly serves the poor. A tithe is traditionally 10 percent, but you could decide to do less or even more. But make a decision about your Christmas tithe and pledge it to groups that are now struggling to respond to the highest number of Americans in poverty in half a century, and to those who focus on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. This is a time to give more — not less.

Sit down with your kids and get them involved in the discussion and decision. You may be surprised at how responsive they are to doing this together. World Vision, which commissioned the sad survey, has a great World Vision Gift Catalog that concretely improves the lives of a children and families in need around the world by providing critical tools, opportunities, and animals to overcome extreme poverty! 

We do this every Christmas Day at our home after we have opened our presents to each other; and our two boys often feel it is the best part of the day. Each kid gets to choose a gift for a family in one of the world’s poorest countries. (Goats are top choices!) And then we decide together what else we will give to other families. Many other organizations provide similar opportunities. We at Sojourners have launched our own Just Giving Guide for that reason. Such gifts can be given in the name of our children or loved ones. 

The only silver lining from the World Vision survey was the high number of people who like charitable gifts like this that are given in their names. This Christmas, my own extended Wallis family, instead of just giving more things to each other, are all giving to an orphanage in Haiti that our sister Marcie and her family and church are very involved with.

All of that can be part of our Christmas Tithe. 

Many of us are deeply involved in missions and campaigns to bring social justice to this world — to transform structures and policies that hurt the poor into new practices that help them overcome their poverty. But the kind of personal giving that we do is also very important, especially in teaching the lessons of compassion and justice to our children. 

So let’s counter the results of the survey with a Christmas Tithe. Gather your family together around this, send the idea to your friends and fellow believers, take the idea to church, write letters to the editor in your local paper. Let’s all decide this Christmas to tithe a percentage of all that we give in Christmas presents directly to the poor — those who were given the greatest gift at the first Christmas, with a child born in a stable who promised to bring them “good news.”  

Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: A Guide for Economic and Moral Recovery, and CEO of Sojourners. His forthcoming book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good, is set to release in early 2013. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

E-mailE-mail this article to friends
FacebookShare this article on Facebook
CommentComment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


 ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG

+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Ugandan Parliament Re-Introduces Gay Death Penalty - What Can Christians Do?
by Janelle Tupper

The Ugandan Parliament has re-introduced a draconian anti-LGBT bill that has received widespread international criticism. Under this bill, first introduced in 2011 and re-introduced earlier this year, the government would prescribe the death penalty to all LGBT people and those that provide them with housing and resources.

The bill is expected to pass before the end of this year; its champions call it a "Christmas gift to the Ugandan people."
+ Click to continue

Celebrating the Miraculous on World AIDS Day
by Dale Hanson Bourke

Since the early days of the disease, the focus has been on a cure. Researchers worked tirelessly for it and the faithful asked God to provide it. But the cure has never come. And yet, as we mark another AIDS Day this Saturday, Dec. 1, there is evidence of the miraculous. 
+ Click to continue

Weaving a Hopeful Future
by Cathleen Falsani

Each scarf created at Ethiopian company fashionABLE bears the name of the woman who made it. It's a small but radical act, a thread in a new garment the women are trying on for size, a future with ample hope and grace. Today I am wearing a white scarf with various stripes and textures woven near the tassels at the bottom. The woman who made it is Bezuayhu. She's 19.
+ Click to continue

Top 5 Best and Worst Bits of 'Christian Sex' Advice
by Melissa Otterbein

I think there is a place away from both the over-sensualized music videos of Rihanna gyrating on YouTube, and from bashful "don't-have-sex" conversations, that discusses sex in a real, authentic way, unabashed in rich, non-shaming, gracious, and open discussion. Bona fide conversations, not lectures, that point to something to bigger than ourselves … our Creator. Herein describes some of those aforementioned messages and a more holistic alternative. 
+ Click to continue

Been There, Bordered That. So Why Are We Still So Afraid?
by Maryada Vallet

Friends and fellow Christians, let's take this opportunity for changing the immigration system to be just that, real change that keeps families together, respects workers, frees the captives and welcomes immigrants, and not another excuse to perpetuate this cycle of fear of our neighbor.  
+ Click to continue

 
 

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!
 
 
 
  

Do you want a great resource to help you deliver a passionate sermon on justice and peace? Do you need lectionary reflections from a trusted source? – Learn More About Preaching the Word.
 

Christians and Islam: Do we share more than we realize? This discussion guide looks at the shared history, theological similarities and differences, and hopes for social justice that both Christians and Muslims share. Download now.
 

Dorothy Day says, "Food for the body is not enough...there must be food for the soul." You can say it too as you shop with Sojourners' exclusive stuffable, reusable, and durable Shopping Bag. Order yours.

The Line: Poverty in America: It’s not what you think. Watch Trailer!

 

  
 


Click Here!
 

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: sojourners@sojo.net | Advertising: advertising@sojo.net | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.