Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Myth of a Christian Scrooge


It is almost impossible to go through the Christmas season without hearing the name Ebenezer Scrooge. You know him. He's the stingy shop owner in A Christmas Carol who loves money and hates giving. In the years since Dickens wrote this classic story, the term Scrooge has come to be known as a selfish person who is unwilling to give. It is not a term of endearment, but a term describing selfishness.

Unfortunately, it is also a term that many could use as an adjective in describing a Christian. How sad. How tragic. How misguided. What poor grammar! You see, I content that . . . 

There is no such thing as a Christian Scrooge!

It is a myth. It is an oxymoron. They are two words that do not go together. It is like oil and water, they do not mix. If someone is a follower of Jesus Christ, then that means they have been impacted and changed by a God who is the opposite of Scrooge. He is a giver. At the heart of Christianity, we find generosity. We find God pouring out for our good. We discover what true sacrifice is all about.

How could anyone who has been impacted by the generosity of God be described in the same breath as Scrooge? Seriously. It seems the opposite should be taking place. If you have been given riches unimaginable and have come to see the indescribable gift of Jesus Christ in your life, how could you be compared to a stingy shop owner who hates to even give his employee a day off a year? 

If the Christian has a wealth far superior to any material possession, then why in the world would he ever give into the temptation to hold onto secondary treasures? They wouldn't. They shouldn't.

BUT WE DO!

Why? Could it be that many who claim to be a Christian are not really followers of Christ? Probably. Could it be that as Martin Luther once said, "there are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse", and that the conversion of the purse takes the longest? Certainly. Or could it be that we have created a culture in American Christianity that has made the subject of money, giving, and generosity a separate issue from a person's standing before God? Absolutely. 

Talking about money is a taboo subject for most pastors. How unfortunate when Jesus says more about material possessions than any other subject in the gospels. A Christian responds by saying, "It's personal. It's between me and God." Imagine if we started to treat other issues in the Christian life with such a personal privacy, like say, sexuality. How do you think that is going to turn out? Oh wait . . . that ship just left the port as well. 

Is the Christian Scrooge a myth? Probably not. But it should be. I just don't see how they go together. I just do not see how someone who claims to follow Jesus---who was in the form of God, but did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men---could be so overtly selfish to believe that all God has given them materially is theirs, not His. 

I just don't get it. Do you?

Don't get me wrong, I feel the lure as much as anyone. I feel the weight of temptation for one more _______ as much as you. And I too often give in to the temptation of thinking of self as opposed to what is good for others. But I hope I'm growing in this. And I hope I fall closer to Jesus than Scrooge. Don't you?

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