Yesterday, I got a text message with a picture from a member of our church.
The picture showed a beautiful new Cadillac parked in front of a building. It had a specialty license plate that said, “TITHER.”
She wrote, “I’m not sure what to think about this. Af first I giggled, then it made me rather sad.”
Having thought all night about this license plate, I am still not sure what to make of it.
If the owner of the beautiful, incredibly expensive car was trying to say because he/she tithes, God has given them the ability to buy such a luxurious car, that would be an incredibly warped understanding of God, much like we see Santa Claus. “He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa Claus is coming to town.”
This sort of theology says if you are good (tithe, do good works, pray, forgive, love the unlovable, and go to church on Sunday) then God, like Santa Claus, will reward you with wonderful gifts, like an expensive car, giant house, a wonderful marriage, good health, a large bank account, the list goes on and on….
This sort of theology also says, if you are bad (don’t tithe, don’t help those in need, never pray, don’t forgive, refuse to love the unlovable, or don’t go to church) then God, like Santa Claus, will punish you with coal and switches, like cancer, divorce, addiction, financial stress, the list goes on and on….
That’s not how our God works. God will never cause harm in your life. If you are in a bad place, know God is not punishing you. God loves you too much for that.
Tomorrow, churches all over the world will be filled with people celebrating Christmas Eve. It will be a wonderful, blessed time. But not everyone who walks into a beautifully decorated sanctuary will be at a good place in life. That’s because, while life can be beautiful, it can also be ugly. Everyone, at one time or another, experiences bad.
If you are in a hard place, it is especially important that you go to church on Christmas Eve and worship as best you can. Hear the Christmas hymns of God’s amazing love, be bathed in soothing candlelight as you sing Silent Night, and then walk out into the night knowing you are not alone.
C.S. Lewis said, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
God is not Santa Claus. God is not punishing you. God wants you whole and complete. As the psalmist said, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
Come to church on Christmas Eve and experience the peace and joy of welcoming God’s child into the world and into your life.
Prayer: Dear Gracious Heavenly God, in the midst of the strains of life, help me see, experience, and rejoice that Jesus has come. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
I am looking forward to spending Christmas Eve with you. See you at church.
Also, this will be the last devotional of the year.
On behalf of our wonderful church staff, “Merry Christmas!”
I pray your day is filled with joy and laughter.