Topsy Turvy Times
Posted on November 28th, 2017 at 7:12AM
Today is Giving Tuesday. This represents a movement to create an international day of giving ahead of the Christmas season. It was started in the US in 2012 as a response to the commercialisation and consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday following Thanksgiving.
I think its positioning is interesting. In one sense it is ahead of the Christmas season and as such is a wonderful opportunity to think of others and give to those in need first, before turning to our own immediate surroundings and what often becomes the excesses of Christmas.
However, if seen more specifically as linked to the previous weekend, I think that first fruits sense of giving to others first is lost. This is particularly true outside of the United States. Let's not forget for Americans this all begins with Thanksgiving, a celebration of the blessings of the year, including the harvest. The 'holiday season' there begins with thanksgiving, being mindful of the past year's blessings.
The rhythm in recent years then becomes a day of thanksgiving and family celebration, followed by shopping and commercialism with an opportunity to give on the Tuesday after this, reflecting back, perhaps to that sense of blessing and gratitude from the previous Thursday.
Sadly, in a country like the UK, whilst we have adopted Black Friday with full gusto, we are missing the thanksgiving bit at the beginning. To me that brings a topsy turvy twist to this past weekend - with no time taken to give thanks for those first fruits, we are encouraged to go out and pick up bargains and get spending. Only then, when we have exhausted our funds, are we encouraged to give to those in need. We may not yet have received our November pay either. This is very much a case of 'last fruits', not first!
The Bible is clear in its teaching of giving our first fruits back to God, for example:
"Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops" (Proverbs 3:9-10)
It is an excellent principle and to try and redeem that, I suggest we take hold of Giving Tuesday very much as a beginning ahead of Christmas rather than tagged onto Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Then we start the season of Advent, remembering the precious gift of Jesus by showing our love for Him in seeking to follow what He himself inspired us to do in Matthew 25:
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Matthew 25:35-36)
May I invite you in the coming days to give first to those less fortunate than yourselves. There are many people in our community, in our nation and in our world, who need our Christmas love, care and generosity.