37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Tidings of joy and frantic shopping. What diverse sentiments the gift-giving season brings! We are occupied with buying and selling, and that’s a good thing for our economy. But God’s economy is fueled not by our buying and selling but by our gift-ing! Christmas is the season of giving because giving is God’s signature. Christmas celebrates the greatest gift - “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” [Is. 9:6]
Underlying all the shopping there flows the sustaining power of… not money, but grace! Grace - the power of giving - sustains every healthy business and every healthy economy. Take away genuine concern for the well-being of the “other” in financial transactions, and the economy will collapse. Grace is essential to sustain trust and health in society.
The Christmas story brings us a poignant reminder of this basic truth. The magi (wise men from the East) brought gifts from far away to celebrate the first Christmas (Matt. 2:1-12). Their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh give precedent for big spending. But gifts are made great not by their market value, but by the value of the recipient. The baby in rags reminds us that the “least of these” (Matt. 25:40) are prized children of God. When we give to the least, we give the greatest gift of unmerited favor. And the poor baby Jesus received these gifts in a manger on our behalf, then gave his life so that we might live abundantly and give generously.
We keep our business aims high by concerning ourselves with the lowest. Give the greatest gift, in both business and personal giving, by including “the least of these” in the grace-filled economics of God. By doing so, we join the ranks of the magi and our gifts convey more than gold.
© Bruce D. Baker, 2013