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I feel confident that the majority of us (people living in the US) believe that we are truly living in a time of economic distress.  A time where the unemployment rates are up, the housing market is down while the foreclosures are up, and people are becoming un-insurable due to loss of a job or new insurance mandates and costs.

Nevertheless, a lot of us are still holding our own while some of our friends, neighbors, family members, acquaintances and strangers are struggling to survive.  I personally may not be wealthy in a financial way but I am very blessed and wealthy in terms of having a family that loves me, a comfortable home to live in, food to provide nourishment, and a job and enough money to pay my bills.  Not all people are as fortunate in their circumstances.  And this is where “charity” comes into play.

Is charity a choice or commandment?  BOTH!  In our human body, God gives us the ability to choose for ourselves.  So we can choose to help others or we can choose not to help others.  But, as a child of God,  it is a commandment that we give generously to those that are in need.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” Deuteronomy 15:11

We are to give to others as God gave unto us - “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  Now I am not saying that we have to sacrifice our own child(ren), but it is just to say that we should give freely of our blessings to those that  are less fortunate than us.  Also, our generosity shouldn’t be conditional; in hopes of receiving something in return.  However, God will bless His Children that obey his commandments.

“He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack; but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse” Proverbs 28:27

“He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed” Psalm 37:26

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall me give into your bosom.  For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” Luke 6:38

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but tendeth to proverty.  The liberal sould shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” Proverbs 11: 24 – 25

Now that explains the “why” we should be charitable, but “how” can we be charitable to others?  Here are a three easy suggestions for helping out:

1.  We can donate money, clothing, personal hygiene items and other needed items to non-profit organizations, such as The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Local Food Bank and many others.

2.  We can give of ourselves by volunteering our time to help feed the hungry during the holidays.  The Red Cross and The Salvation Army, along with other non-profit organizations often sponsor free meals to the hungry during the holiday season.  Giving of ourselves is often more important than giving of our money.  We can also volunteer our time at our local hospitals and nursing homes; bringing good cheer to those that that are sick or may have no family to celebrate the holidays with.

3.  We can give to homeless and needy individuals directly that we see all around us.  For instance, have you ever seen a homeless person standing at a street corner or at the end of an interstate ramp holding a sign “I work for Food” or “Homeless, need help”?  Well this one is kind of tricky since you don’t know for sure if the person is genuine or just trying to scam you (sad but true).  My best advice is take a look at the person, looking to see how he or she are dressed (if they have designer clothes on, that should be a clue) and watch their mannerisms.  Do they appear to be nervous and looking over their shoulder?  Or is there a look of desperation and sadness about them.  Really it boils down to using your instincts and whether or not you are feeling lead by God to help this person.  If the person is asking for money for food, you can always go to the nearest drive-thru restaurant and pick up some food and drinks and take back to that person instead of giving actual money.  If they are truly hungry, they will be so delighted and appreciative.

Whatever you decide to give, whether it be time or money, just be sure to give with a generous heart and spirit.  You will be blessed!

What ways do you give to others?  Do you have family traditions in terms of giving to others? 

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