Inside Opinion

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Tag: Christmas

Dec.
23rd

Christmas and the beautiful mystery of generosity

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Gifts define Christmas. It’s a good occasion to celebrate the virtue of giving.

St. Paul quoted Jesus as teaching, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus – viewed by Christians as God’s supreme gift to humanity – relentlessly emphasized acts of selfless generosity.

The desire to give arises from some deep well in human nature. Tips for waiters, of all things, point to a human impulse to share. Psychologists and economists have long puzzled over the fact that travelers leave tips at restaurants they’ll never return to.

In the book, “Why smart people make big money mistakes,” financial analyst Gary Belsky and psychologist Thomas Gilovich try to make sense of the practice:

“If you think about it, tipping is about as irrational as can be: folks routinely giving away money without a clear obligation to do so, to people they’ll likely never see again, in places they’ll never revisit, for a level of service that may not have even pleased them …

“It’s not enough to say that the self-interest in tipping is the guarantee of good service. Since tipping comes after the meal, that would only explain why people might tip in neighborhood restaurants or other eateries to which they are certain they will return. It does not explain why travelers tip the waiter at a Denny’s in, say, Little Rock, when they know it is unlikely they will ever eat there again.”
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Dec.
24th

Words still radical after 2,000 years

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

To the world’s hundreds of millions of Christians, Jesus of Nazareth was far more than – like Buddha or Socrates – one of history’s great teachers of ethics. But what a teacher he was.

Christmas – with its odd jumble of colored lights, nativity scenes, Santa Claus, ancient pagan customs and frantic commercialism – pays vague homage to Jesus’ arrival 2,000-odd years ago. Real appreciation requires dusting off the second-hand pieties and looking precisely at his recorded statements.

Consider the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew, a discourse so radical it remains startling today.

In a Roman world obsessed with dominance, wealth and military power, Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . . the meek . . . those who hunger and thirst after righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . the peacemakers.”

Against the deep-rooted human instinct for vengeance, he taught, “Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Nor was it just a matter of not hitting back. “Love your enemies,” he said, “and pray for those who persecute you.” Those words have been hanging in the air a very long time, and the idea of loving enemies has yet to catch on.
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