Life > Lines
I love Christmas. I love giving and receiving gifts. My whole family is a family of gift-givers. Naturally, during the holidays, we tend to do a lot of shopping. And if I really thought about how much time and money we spend on shopping, it would probably make me sick.
There is a piece of holiday gift-giving that is fun and healthy. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the season and taking part in the gift giving tradition of Christmas. But, there are many times when I feel that we’ve taken this thing too far. Our culture values consumption over relationship while Jesus values relationship. The selfishness of giving and receiving gifts devoid of relationship is most noticeable in my own heart as I go through the holidays. I am often thinking about what I want and am consumed in shopping for my wants.
Selfishness is not a new idea for me. Neither is generosity. My family has wrestled to find a balance between them for years. And over the years, our pendulum has swung between being selfish at Christmas to being generous. We were first convicted of the amount of time and money that we spent several years ago and made some changes within our family to help correct it. For many years, our extended families used to draw names out of a hat and buy gifts for whomever we ended up with. Often, we didn’t have a a clue what that person really wanted. Invariably this led us to some random item from the gift section of Wal-Mart or the As Seen On TV Store. And although I loved the Old Spice Holiday Bath Gift Set, it really lacked meaning, was a waste of money, and fed into the shopping frenzy that our culture tells us we must be a part of!
A few years ago that changed. We started to ask the root questions: What else could we do with the resources we were spending on these random gifts? What else could we do with the time we were spending shopping and waiting in lines. And like any good light-bulb-over-the-head moment, we struck gold.
Perhaps we could use our financial resources to bless someone outside of our family. We could put those resources toward providing things like food and clothing to those who were without. We could redirect them – with the hope that that the whole reason we celebrate Christmas could be shared with others. Perhaps we could even use our time in a better way. Isn’t this a season to focus on family? What if we took all the time we spent shopping and standing in line and repurposed that as quality family time with our parents, spouses, and children?
Blessing others outside of our family with additional resources and making quality time for our family was just be the start of it. When we were convicted of all this several years back, we proposed to our families a new idea. Instead of drawing names and giving meaningless gifts, we chose not to wait in the lines and spend the money on ourselves but find an organization where we could change lives and advance the Kingdom of God. Perhaps the same could be true for you.
Think about how our consumer culture would shift if all of us chose not to participate in the madness. In John 15:18-19, John writes about the world either hating us or loving us. If the world loves us then we are one of it’s own and we belong to it. But, if we are followers of Jesus, we are no longer part of this world and we should not look like it.
As I reflect on my desire to give gifts and receive gifts, I ask myself what my motives are. Am I acting out of selfishness and the desire to be loved by the world? Or do I want to look different from our culture?
I am thankful that we live in a time where there are so many opportunities to bless people with gifts all around the world. That our gifts allow missionaries to have a platform to share about Jesus. Don’t take it for granted this season. Let’s do the hard work and wrestle through the consumerist culture that we are all tempted to be a part of to find a better way. Check out organizations like Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse or Heifer International that make it so easy to bless someone in a way that lasts. Instead of wasting your time standing in line for 20 minutes to get Cousin Eddie a gift he doesn’t need, go online and buy a goat for someone in Africa that will provide a family with nourishment for months to come.
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