Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Prayer Request 9/10 - 9/16

The obligation to give cash gifts causes financial stress for families in the small towns in China. Births, weddings, or deaths can make people very concerned financially. Let us pray that every birthday, funeral, or wedding celebration in every church will be not only a celebration but also a good opportunity to reach out to unbelievers with the gospel.
An invitation to the banquet for special occasions in China calls for a cash gift of at least one hundred yuan (US$16.) which is about the equivalent of three days' wages. It is not impolite not to go so long as the money arrives. Usually in the small or rural churches financial giving is very small. Unfortunately, pastors hesitate to preach the truth of tithing. May the Lord have mercy on us so believers will not have so little faith they will miss out on the abundant blessings God wants to pour out on us.
Today in addition to the big ceremonies like weddings and funerals there is a whole range of occasions that call for a banquet such as: birth of a baby, 12th, 36th, 50th, 60th, and 70th birthdays, moving into a new house, or even re-decorating one's house. There are many celebrations among believers as well but some come with an invitation and some do not. This tends to lead to favoritism and loss of unity. We pray for unity among believers and that they will avoid any cause of stumbling among those who are weaker.
Parents throw parties when their child joins the military or is admitted to a university. A few decades ago admission to an elite university warranted a banquet, but now some parents have begun sending out invitations to a party for a child entering senior high school. It is not easy for believers to stay true to their faith in Jesus in the military in China or even in college since there are many temptations there. We pray for the families whose children are in the military or in college. May the Lord protect them from the evil one.
In China's traditionally rural society, the custom of giving a gift of money was supposed to help fellow villagers, relatives, or clan members through the difficulty of starting a new family or caring for a newborn child. Now, however, some argue that the custom is out of control and that these celebrations are merely times to get financial profit. Chinese people value reciprocity but Christ wants us to treat each other with love, not recount the evil deeds of others. May the Lord remind us that we should do what is good in the eyes of men gladly and willingly because it is all of the grace of God.
Inevitably, the obligation to send out cash gifts hits low-income families harder than anyone else – the acceptable sum of gift money is based on the closeness of relations between the inviter and the invitee, regardless of the latter’s economic status. Let us pray about the way each church treats the poor in their midst. May God's Spirit convict us not to judge people because the poor are chosen to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom of heaven which God has promised to those who love Him.
Very few people dare to decline invitations to special occasions in China since doing so would bring the family into potentially irreversible disrepute. It is also damaging to one's social standing to give a sum of money that is lower than the going rate even though that figure is never expressly given. Chinese people put great value on "face" but sadly this is one big reason why they tend to be superficial and not transparent. Believers (preachers included) are unwilling to share their weaknesses and failings, hence their preaching and sharing lacks sincerity. Oh, may the Lord break our hypocrisy.


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