A Material Christmas

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing.She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

2 Kings 4.1-7

Christmas is a time often associated with excess; food, drink, gifts, decorations, money…

But what if that is not you? What if you don’t have any of that, does that mean you don’t have a real Christmas?

Does the thought of going into a season of material excess fill you with anxiety?

In 2 Kings 4 we see a lady struggling to make material ends meet, let alone have an excess with which to feast or celebrate. Things are so bad that she is on the verge of having to give up her children to pay her debts. She is struggling to provide for her family and must have felt hopeless. She had debts and no resources to pay them.

She was encouraged to put her faith and trust in the faithfulness of God and in His provision.

When you think about it, this is what Christmas is all about. This season is not for material excess, but for celebrating the miraculous and world-changing provision God made for us by sending Jesus.

As the lady was encouraged to trust in God’s provision materially, I would encourage you this Christmas season to put your hope and trust in the greater provision He made for us, the answer to our anxieties, stresses, trials and tribulations, the real reason for the season, Jesus.

No matter your material resources, putting hope and trust in Jesus, not the temporal and temporary trappings of Christmas, gives us the guarantee of God’s provision, His abundant love, His forever acceptance, and His life-changing grace.

This devotional was originally written for It Is Well, check them out here.

Amos 3.12-15 – Is there safety in our stuff?

When we were newly married, Robyn and I lived in Germany, in a small flat in Essen. The flat was very German, right down to the kitchen, well, that there was no discernible kitchen at all really, more of a room with a fridge and sink in – apparently the done thing is that when you leave, you take your kitchen with you…anyway, this meant we cooked on a plug-in electric stove top for our time there. It was small, it wasn’t ours really as it was rented by the company we worked for, and consequently other than living there temporarily we attached little deep and meaningful value to the place. As nice as it was, we never felt really at home there. But, this was a very normal one-bedroom German flat, pretty much the same as everything else on our road. Everyone else around us lived in pretty much identical flats, and that was fine for us.

Today in Amos we see a little sarcasm,

12 Thus says the LORD: “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

As shepherds and animal-caring-for neighbors would seek to save a leg or an ear from a predator to prove they have not totally lost what was entrusted to them, we read that the people of Israel [will be] rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.

Already, then, we are seeing what is valuable to the people; their possessions, their stuff.

God continues to speak in vv.13-14, saying that the perceived strength of the idol gods will be destroyed and judged along with the sins of His people, then, in v.15 we read,

15 I will strike the winter house along with the summer house, and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end,” declares the LORD.

Before Jeroboam II, houses in Israel were, apparently, much the same size, a lot like my German experience. Then, around the eighth century B.C., things started to change and there was a big neighborhood, and a small neighborhood, a place with large houses full of fancy stuff, and a place with small, crowded, cheap houses with cheap stuff.

The Lord says through Amos that the winter houses and the summer houses will perish alike, houses of ivory and the great houses shall be judged just like the small, crowded houses.

For us, God has blessed us with health, a home, employment, a wonderful church family, and so so much more. There are, however, people who we interact with every day who have far less than us, and we must never judge a book by its cover, so to speak, because outward appearances can be deceiving.

The point is this; no matter where we live, no matter how much we earn, no matter the size of the house we live in, God will judge us all to the same righteous standard.

There is no distinction in His eyes, we are all made in His image and we are all held to the same high, high standard. The only hope we have of reaching that is through faith in the name of Jesus, not the home we live in, not the job we have, not the bank balance we have, but faith in the name of Jesus.