Christmas was a magical time of the year when I was a child. There was this toasty haze in the atmosphere, and the scent of pine laced the air. Before we ever-so-violently opened our gifts on Christmas morning, my mom’s partner would bring out the Good Book. We talked about “the reason” for the season. I could care less about the story I’d heard more times than I cared to. I just wanted to see what my parents and other family members bought me. I rarely got anything I wanted, so I was usually disappointed.
I can say that ‘feeling’ has dissipated and been replaced with: “What’s up with these self-indulgent gifts anyway?” I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore, but I’m not against man-made celebrations. The Word says man-made traditions cannot usurp truth (Mark 7:8,9). I just think Christ followers need to reflect on why they do something and how they’re honoring God with their actions. If we Godify an idolatrous secular holiday (or just participate in one) so that we can join the world and not feel left out (which may be the case for the roots of this day), that is wrong. We don’t care what unbelievers do or desire to follow them (Romans 12:2)(1 John 2:15)(Colossians 3:2). However, if we designate a certain day to honor God, then we indeed honor him. For some New Covenant keepers today, the day is purely spiritual. We have liberty. We just shouldn’t use that liberty for the flesh, to disobey the Word, or to follow the world (Galatians 5:13)(1 Peter 2:16). God says we can make a special day unto the Lord if we want (Romans 14:5). The context extends beyond Jewish traditions and could be applied in several instances. It includes daily life. So, it’s a matter of opinion, and it depends on your intent. In the first instance, the world is first place. In the other, God is first place. Honest reflection can help followers figure this out. One clue that you’re emulating the world is if you do what these people do, such as doing a similar event around the same time or having the same decorations–though gift-giving isn’t worldly (Matthew 7:11)(1 Timothy 6:17-19)(Proverbs 11:25).
If I give someone something, I try to choose wisely. Not too long ago, I gave someone a present on his day of birth. He did not need anything, and I thought a financial gift for his budding ministry would be nice. I could give that to him any day, but I thought, what’s the difference? I would be thrilled to receive a donation to help with ministry work, no matter when I got it. He did not seem too happy with this gift, almost as if he did not want to share his day with God. Later that day, someone gave him an additional television, and he was ecstatic. I know this person well enough to know what his TV is mostly used for.
I just observed. Interesting that a present that seemed to satisfy the flesh created such excitement, but something that was meant to further the kingdom was met with a lukewarm reaction. If one “claims” to celebrate a day of birth unto the Lord (and not the self like the world), shouldn’t God be in the forefront? He shouldn’t be in the background. Like everyday of a Christian’s life, it should focus on the Creator who gave you life. It seems many Christians aren’t strong enough to do that, so they shouldn’t do these kinds of celebrations.
So, how can one discern if a gift is flesh-focused or not? Well, we have freedom in Christ, but how we use this freedom will determine if we honor God or not. For one, what is your intent? Is God in the forefront guiding your choice? I’m not saying a present has to be a Bible or even Christian in nature. I’m just saying should people honor the birth of our savior by giving gifts that satisfy the flesh or the Holy Spirit within? Ultimately, we know this day is not needed to celebrate Christ’s birth; It’s surely more important to honor his death, burial, and resurrection, which we are commanded to do. This is just done to highlight this joyous event that took place sometime in history. We don’t have to do or give this or that. I know some Christians don’t even celebrate it because of pagan roots. But people can celebrate Christ’s birth (or their own) whenever they want to, though it should be Christ-Centered and not wasteful. So, if you celebrate Christmas by giving gifts (I know some just make their own), here are 7 things to think about before you get that present for your family member or friend.
1. Does he or she need it?
In the United States, this line can get blurry for those who have been conditioned by this society. Some people believe they need cable, the newest gadget, or a lot of clothes. If you can live, work, or function without it, then perhaps it’s not necessary. If the person doesn’t need anything, maybe you should give it to those who do.
2. Is it an obvious distraction?
Almost anything could be a distraction. But we should try to avoid gifts that blatantly encourage someone to spend less time with God. We want to help enhance them Spiritually. These distractions could be “flesh” movies, etc (though what is flesh-pleasing to one person may not be for another). I am not talking about gifts that might help with physical health, school, work, skills, talents, etc. Hopefully, you know the person well enough to choose wisely.
3. Will it maintain value?
If you’re going to buy a present, you can also consider one that might maintain value or will appreciate with time. If hard times fall on the giftee, this person may need to liquidate his or her assets to get by. So if you can, try to stay away from items that will quickly depreciate.
4. Is it a band-aid?
Are you trying to cover up a problem by giving a gift to someone (to avoid conflict)?. We should not use gift-giving to fix an issue that should be resolved by Christian mending, open discussion, prayer, and love.
This could also apply to gifts given to “win” the love or respect of a person or to just make someone happy.
5. Are you spending what you don’t have?
I recently read a story about Christmas and gifts. This lady said she was spending money she did not have every year just to make sure everyone had a present. She decided to stop giving gifts and take her family out to dinner.
Are you spending your money wisely? Perhaps you should be more creative if you really desire to give something. It does not have to fit in a box with expensive packaging; perhaps a hug, time, encouragement, or a home-cooked meal with family and friends is enough.
6. Is the gift overindulgent?
Someone might need shoes, and there is nothing wrong with buying some. But are you buying shoes with diamonds and gold-laced strings? You should buy quality shoes (if you want them last), but they do not need to be extra’d up (unless it’s some kind of investment I guess). Believe it or not, it may be more cost-efficient to get the shoes custom-made with natural materials (if you know where to go).
7. What would Jesus think?
I remember that overused phrase: ‘What Would Jesus do? It was put through the wringer. Laughter aside, this is supposed to be a celebration of His birth. How are you honoring him? Think about that. What are you giving to Him? Maybe you should go out on Christmas morning, assist in giving the gift of eternal life–the ultimate Gift, share your faith with those who do not know Christ, & break bread with strangers.
These are things to ponder whenever you buy something really.