Science tells us that the universe, that began some 13.8 billion years ago, is so huge, we’re not even sure how big it is. From what we can observe, and there may be much more out there, it would take you 93 billion years to cross it traveling at the speed of light, about 186,000 miles per second. Our paltry little galaxy, a.k.a. The Milky Way, is a mere 100 million light years across. And as we speak, new galaxies are still being birthed!
So why am I bringing up all of these “so what” facts. (By the way, I was horrible at science in school; God bless Google.) In simple terms, the message is that God created and continues to create this vast universe, with more than enough for everyone. However, if you don’t look at His creation with love in your heart, to be respected and shared, you may not fully see it. Jesus made this point: they look but don’t see. (Matt. 13)
From the start of His ministry, Jesus showed in so many ways the boundless fruitfulness of God. Whether it was the fisherman’s nets filled to the breaking point, or feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, or forgiving people seventy times seven times. The message was clear: we worship a God of abundance, one overflowing with love. And we are meant to bask in God’s love and creation. This is why in part, in so many places in the bible it says “peace be with you” and “do not be afraid”.
However, despite Jesus message, we have a tendency to take the abundance of God and turn it into a world of scarcity. We justify our actions or urges with words like: God helps those who help themselves, look out for number one, or we need to look after our own. Now, clearly, we were gifted with intelligence, survival instincts, etc. and are meant to provide for ourselves, our families, our community and even our country. And we also need to be a society of laws, especially to look after those most in need of care and protection. But, and it’s a big but, everything we have is a gift from God and not of our own creation. We are meant to use these gifts to realize His kingdom on earth.
Oh come on, you might say, don’t you watch the news? People are clamoring at the borders. Good jobs are hard to find. Terrorism is on the rise. My 401k is shrinking. What are we supposed to do: sell everything, move to a commune and behave as if none of this existed? No, definitely not. But we must remember Jesus basic teaching of Love Your Neighbor. And not just the neighbors who look like you or worship like you or even that you find lovable.
At the risk of throwing another mind-boggling statistic at you, the last data I saw shows that the eight richest people in the world, own more than the poorest 50% on the planet or some 3.5 billion people. Today, while there is much talk about giving back, perhaps as Anand Giridharadas points out in his book “Winners Take All”, we might be better served by looking at how we take in the first place: how we live our lives on a day to day basis.
I’ve heard people comment, well just do the math. We can’t look after everyone. (As an aside, it’s unlikely the feeding of the five thousand would have taken place using that same math mentality.) However, Jesus was also a realist. He knew that most of us are not Mother Teresas who are ready to give up everything for the poor. All He commanded was that we pay attention to those in need around us, perhaps have a little less, so that they can have a little more, and try and see them for what they are, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So this Christmas, as you fret about what to get the person who really doesn’t need anything, perhaps you could spare a little concern for those who have really little or nothing, whether that lack is food, shelter, a country or love.