Whitefield on Christmas, iPads (sort of), and the Poor

whitefieldGeorge Whitfield, the great Oxford-educated preacher, whose rhetorical prowess is reported to have driven 15 people mad during his first sermon, warned against the improper celebration of Christmas, in his sermon, “The Observation of the Birth of Christ.” Given our modern American obsessions with all things electronic, with the acquisition of endless piles of stuff, and with Christmas becoming yet another excuse (as if we really needed one) for gargantuan self-indulgence, I can’t help but find Whitefield’s words challenging and relevant.

Whitefield especially warned against three things that serve to bar one from truly honoring the advent of Christ. He warned first, against wasting time on entertainments (he mentioned cards and dice, but I think it can apply equally to football), when there was so much work to be done in serving Christ. Second, he said that those who are intent upon endless eating and drinking are not rightly observing Christmas. “How can you pray,” he says, “ ‘lead us not into temptation’ when you are resolved to lead yourself into it?” Finally, he warns against spending endlessly more on yourself (he doesn’t specifically mention iPads, but…), while neglecting the needs of the poor. As a corrective to this last point, he says:

Do not, my dear brethren, be forgetful of the poor of the world; consider, if providence has smiled upon you, and blessed you with abundance of the things of this life, God calls for some returns of gratitude from you; be ye mindful of the poor, and when you are so, then you may be said to have a true regard for that time which is now approaching; if you would truly observe this festival, let it be done with moderation, and a regard to the poor of this world.[1]

No need to go mad, though. Just do something for those less fortunate this Christmas. It really is the best way to celebrate the occasion!

[1]George Whitefield, Selected Works of George Whitefield, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 1997), n.p.


Common Objections to Compassionate Ministry

There are a few, often repeated objections that tend to come up in almost any discussion of social justice or compassionate ministry. Here, I’ve tried to compile answers to what I think are the most common accusations made. My goal is to simply show that many objections lack either a biblical or historic basis. I look forward to your comments. Click  here for the pdf: common objections to compassion ministry

Instructions on Giving in the Didache

The Didache is one of the most ancient examples of catechetical teaching in the Church, probably dating to the late first or early second century. It contains some very interesting and telling admonishments. Here are a few of the instructions I find most interesting (and quite helpful!):

 If you’ve ever struggled over when and to whom you should give money, this is for you:

Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give.

If you are sometimes captivated by televangelists who constantly ask for money, you might find this worth taping to your T.V. set:

 If he asks for money, he is a false prophet….But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for other’s sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

 That said, you should support those who are genuine prophets and teachers. If you don’t have those, then give to the poor:

But every true prophet who wants to live among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you have no prophet, give it to the poor.