Holiday priorities when money's tight

When Mother Teresa accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for her work among the poor of India, she told the story of a starving Hindu family.

Mother Teresa had taken rice to the family of eight children. After she divided the rice among the family, someone in the family left.

Mother Teresa said, "I asked her: 'Where did you go, what did you do?' And she gave me a very simple answer: 'They are hungry also.'"

The Hindu woman had shared her rice with a Muslim family.

Said Mother Teresa to the Nobel audience, "I didn't bring more rice that evening because I wanted them to enjoy the joy of sharing."

So for our Question of Faith this month, we asked our Faith Blog Network:

Which is the most important issue of the holidays during these difficult economic times: sharing, saving or spending? What guides your financial decision-making, especially now?

Here are their answers:

Myron Williams, Southland Christian Church: The Bible tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive.

While we may not always have the income we desire or think we need, we here in the United States are far better off than most people of the world.

The fact that most of us can choose what we wear and what we eat makes us rich by the standards of millions of people.

Jesus praised a woman for giving all she had, though by economic standards it was very little.

The Apostle Paul praised people who are in difficult financial situations for giving to others who had great need. ...

Our family chooses to give because to whom much is given much is required.

The Rev. Cynthia Cain, Unitarian Universalist Church, Lexington and the Interfaith Alliance of the Bluegrass: Even before the recession, our family shifted holiday priorities. It's hard to break tradition. ...

Over the years, I watched as more and more members of my congregation shifted their thinking and their practices.

I heard so many stories of alternative ways to celebrate without so much spending of money and wasting of resources that I knew we'd move in that direction, too.

A secret of ministry is that we learn from our wonderful congregations, as they learn from us.

Environmental awareness is a huge part of this shift in thinking.

No longer can we wantonly participate in despoiling Creation's wonder and threatening its future by consuming and wasting.

Roger Bruner, Mill Street Church of Christ, London: Two Bible verses that guide my financial decision-making:

"Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15-21).

"For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing" (Luke 12:23).

Bob Evely, Grace Evangel Fellowship, Wilmore: The Bible calls us to be cheerful givers. This need not be to an organized church or even a recognized tax-deductible charity.

We all find opportunities to share what we have if we keep our eyes open. This is part of being a faithful ambassador.

Excessive spending can be a sign that we are too self-centered. Excessive saving can be a sign that we are too self-centered (although a measured amount of saving is being prudent).

And as for giving, we are to be cheerful givers. There is no set amount (the 10 percent tithe pertained only to Israel and not to the body of Christ). And unlike excessive spending or saving, giving is generally "others-centered" as opposed to self-centered.

The Rev. Mary Seeger Weese, Midway Presbyterian Church: Presbyterians believe the best way to say thanks to the giver is to be responsible with what we've got. And that's good, practical, no-brainer advice.

But the extraordinary thing is that God is not frugal with us. God is not practical and responsible. ... God loves us recklessly and wants us to have ... deep, wide, rich, consuming, over-the-top extravagant life. ...

Abundant life is not found in the biggest and best presents at Christmas. ...

Let go of the guilt of giving enough stuff.

Instead of becoming more tight-fisted and penny pinching, become extravagant spenders of time with our family and time with God.

Become connoisseurs of meals shared with the hungry.

Let ourselves splurge on conversations with friends and with the lonely down the street.

Indulge in patience for all cashiers and clerks and harried shoppers.

Throw around love and grace with abandon, like we will never run out because God promises we will never run out. They are the gifts that will always keep on giving.