The call of Scripture is to do for other people, as we would like to have done unto us, but that call is personal, not corporate. That's because only people can be compassionate. A government check too often brings dependence and a sense of entitlement. A personal touch builds relationships horizontally with others and vertically with God.
One upside to the current recession is that it has forced people to reconsider their priorities. To paraphrase one of the better-known lines from the film, "It's a Wonderful Life," the recession has given us a great gift: the ability to see what our lives would look like without stuff.
We still have stuff, too much in fact. Letting go of some of it has not caused people to die in the streets -- despite the ludicrous claim by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that someone dies in America every 10 minutes because they lack health insurance.
Anyone young enough to have living grandparents or great-grandparents should take a few minutes this Christmas to ask them what life was like when they were growing up. How many presents did they receive? Unless they came from wealthy families, they didn't get much by today's standards and they were probably more satisfied than we who have more than we need.
That's the thing about stuff: we know it doesn't satisfy, but we gorge ourselves on it anyway hoping the marketers are right and somehow it will bring satisfaction.
What those "wise men" brought were symbols -- gold, frankincense and myrrh. What they symbolized was the grandeur of the baby who would become a man and who, in the words of John the Baptist, would "take away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)
Ponder that this Christmas and every Christmas.