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This time of year, good works are as plentiful as Christmas lights. The joyful sounds of Salvation Army bell-ringers are matched with the cheerful clink of change. The same person who cut you off in traffic last month may be ladling out soup at the local homeless shelter. Our favorite Christmas movies and stories are rife with examples of generosity: Ebenezer Scrooge buying the Cratchits a Christmas turkey twice the size of Tiny Tim, and George Bailey giving away his honeymoon money for the folks of Bedford Falls.

Every year I get a front-row seat to witness the amazing generosity of Christians participating in Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program—purchasing gifts for hundreds of thousands of prisoners' children and delivering them along with the Good News. While I'm always moved by the kindness of believers, quite frankly, I'm not surprised by it. Jesus called us to a life of good works. And at Christmas we are especially reminded of the generosity of God in providing his own Son to take on flesh for us. It stirs in us the desire to put flesh to our good works as well.

But it's the generosity of unbelievers that does at times take me aback. A recent book, Who Really Cares, by scholar Arthur C.Brooks, reveals that religious conservatives donate far more money to charitable causes than do secular liberals. Still, the fact that secularists can sometimes give quite generously, even self-sacrificially, is an undeniable fact—and one that is difficult to reconcile with the basic tenets of their worldview.

I was struck by this when attending a special-needs basketball game for my autistic grandson, Max. He played alongside about 30 children who suffered from autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other conditions. ...

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Christianity Today
The Problem of Goodness
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In the Magazine

December 2009

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