The Slavery of Christmas Spending

I Corinthians 6:12

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I thought of that verse when I read It’s Time to Ban Christmas Presents by Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com.

A major focus of Lewis’ website is helping people get out of debt, and Christmas spending is a big problem for a lot of people who are struggling financially.  He isn’t (as far as I can tell) a Bible-believing Christian, so his perspective on things will differ from ours in many ways, but the question he is asking is a good one — should we really be spending all the money we spend on Christmas presents?

While I can appreciate and respect those who do not celebrate Christmas because they believe that it is not what the Lord wants them to do, I am absolutely persuaded that it is entirely acceptable for Christians to celebrate, and that it can be (and often is) done in ways that are pleasing to Him. Perhaps I’ll write more on this at some point.

However, if Christians are to celebrate Christmas, it shouldn’t be a festival in honour of the gods of materialism, selfishness, and pride. It shouldn’t be a time where the beauty of giving is twisted into a burdensome ritual.

It is most certainly not pleasing to the Lord to be financially irresponsible just to give gifts that are not needed and may not be particularly appreciated, especially when there are real needs.  The Lord does not want us going into debt just so we can throw money around for excessive toys for children. He does not want us to neglect our family’s true needs, the needs of those around us, our responsibility to be wise considering future responsibilities, nor our financial responsibility to His work.  He certainly doesn’t want us to neglect those things for temporary pleasures, or so we can pridefully boast to ourselves that we’ve given to others as much as (or more than) they have given to us.

Generosity is a wonderful thing.  God gives us many wonderful gifts, and as we are renewed in His image, we should become more and more generous.  He is the One who gives us the ability to give, for everything we have is from Him, and He delights in gifts.

It was the Lord Jesus Himself who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) — but He was NOT talking about the ridiculous excess that enslaves so many people at this time of year.

Those people on whom you are spending money? They may be struggling themselves right now in a tough economy, and might actually be relieved to have you be the one to say, “Let’s stop the insanity.” That might be the best gift you could give them this year — caring enough to set them free. And they might also prefer that you be free from the faux obligation of spending money to give them something they don’t need and may not really care about very much.

Please read Lewis’ article and give a real think about how you spend money this year.  Maybe it is too late to change what you are doing this year.  Maybe family members wouldn’t understand if you changed, and would consider it disrespectful, or unloving, and so maybe you can’t change all that much. But maybe they would rather you spend time with them than spend money on them.

Make sound, principle-driven decisions.  And then, to whatever extent you continue to give, rejoice in the God-given ability to do so, and in the confidence that you are giving, not because of being brought into bondage to a human tradition, but because sound, Biblical principles are determining your behaviour.

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
This entry was posted in Daily Christianity, The Christian and Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Slavery of Christmas Spending

  1. We long ago asked family and friends to stop giving Christmas presents to us. It was an insane amount. We wanted our children to recognize the real meaning of Christmas- Christ’s birth. We felt guilty with all this “loot”. Often, it was things we didn’t need, nor want. We were simplifying our lives, removing so many extras from the home and that just continued adding to it. I dislike dusting with a passion, so I am often asking myself, Do I want to have to dust this? That has helped so much keeping me from buying so many unneeded things.

    Strangely, I lost a friend over this. Oh, no big blow-up or anything, but I could tell she was hurt. She would mail our family two huge boxes at Christmas time. I could tell she spent a lot of effort picking out the right things based on our interests and making them pretty in their wrapping paper. We kept in contact for a time, but the relationship was never quite the same.

    Now if we can just stop people from giving us birthday gifts. I think that would be too hard on grandma, though.. We have had to “censor” some of it, sadly. Besides family giving to the children, I have friends who give me soaps and lotions that just stinks. (Sorry, I don’t like perfume stuffs), but also we try to avoid certain products because of their environmental hazard. I cannot pass them on and it would be unwise to throw them out. So there they sit, collecting dust. I haven’t figured a way to tactfully say anything.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      I suppose you could ask me to delete this comment, and then refer them to this post and say, “What about birthdays and other stuff, too? What do you think?” 🙂

      I think if I had a friend who was obviously putting a lot of effort into it, I’d just keep accepting it, personally. If it looks like a true labour of love, I’d be inclined to receive it in that spirit.

      • Actually, my husband and I talked about my friend’s gifts. He felt that if we asked his family to stop giving us Christmas gifts, I needed to go to my friend, as well. It made sense, but it was hard to do. My friend has a deep love for the Lord and her life seemed to revolve around giving. Not just gifts to friends, but in many other ways, as well.

        About birthdays, it is helping us practice kindness, gratefulness, contentment. Grandma is getting older, so doesn’t necessarily remember what we’ve told her. We need to give her grace. And about the stinky, hazardous gifts… Maybe someday the Lord will give me the right words to say. I know He would not want me to offend someone over something so minor.

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Yes, the Lord wants us to receive graciously as well as give graciously. 🙂

  2. ukfred says:

    For all those who insist that they give you gifts that you do not really need at Christmas, there is alwaysa the charity that can use them. In my home town there is a Baptist church that has a night shelter for the homeless, and can always use soaps and shower gels, shampoos and conditioners for both men and women. The is another charity in a nearby town which helps teach life skills to young (16 – 24) homeless people and can always use all sorts of things. You can always say thank you to the giver, and explain that there are many who are in a much worse position than yourself and that you will pass the gifts on to where they will be most welcome and most needed.

    We do have cause to celebrate Christmas because only in Christianity do we have a God who brought himself down to our level, because He knew that we could never even aspire to His, who made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. It is a relationship with the Living God in which we acknowledge that we rely on His mercy. It is not a religion in which we have to try to make ourselves good enough to deflect the wrath of a vengeful god, like Islam or Bhuddism. But just as God gave us a gift that we could never hope to have achieved for ourselves, so we too can give gifts to those who could never hope to buy them for themselves.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Fred, excellent comment, I agree wholeheartedly. Christmas is not something we are commanded to do, but it is a wonderful tradition to set aside a special day to remember the Incarnation, when God said, “I will love them even though they are so far from Me. I will go to them.”

      And the giving of gifts is a wonderful tradition to include in that celebration, and especially when it is giving rather than exchanging….

      Luke 14:12-14 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
      13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
      14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

      • Michael Gleason says:

        “No one I know worships a Christmas tree, mistletoe or the yule log. We see so many Santa Clauses that no kid is going to be confused for very long. It is true that the Greek letter tau was a symbol for Tammuz, but a cross does not remind Christians of Tammuz, but of the Savior who died. If there are devils around whose followers reverenced Tammuz centuries ago, I am sure that these devils do not laugh up their sleeves–if they have sleeves–at the simple Christian who sees in the Cross the symbol of his redemption by the blood of Christ. Christ has triumphed over all these things.”

        http://basketoffigs.org/Living/xmasweb.htm:

      • Jon Gleason says:

        Right. The idea that pagan origins to the holiday means we shouldn’t celebrate it is unsound. The paganism in the holiday that is of substantive concern is the materialism, etc. THAT is something that is worshiped widely today, and which we must avoid.

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