When I was I child, Christmas was a magical time of the year. There was this toasty haze in the atmosphere, and the scent of pine laced the air. On Christmas morning, before we ever-so-violently opened our gifts, my dad would bring out the Good Book and we would dive into Matthew. We talked about the reason for the season. I could care less about the story that 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. I like eccentric things, which my parents didn’t understand, so I was usually disappointed.
I can say that ‘feeling’ has changed. It has dissipated and been replaced with: “What’s up with these self-indulgent gifts anyway?” Now, I’m not against birthdays or celebrating Christmas. If I give a gift to someone, I try to choose wisely. Not too long ago, I gave a family member a present for his birthday. He did not need anything in the physical sense, and I thought a financial gift for his budding ministry would be helpful. 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, whether it was on my b-day or not. 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 (fit for a giant), 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 one that was meant to further the kingdom was met with a lukewarm reaction.
So how can one discern if a gift is flesh-focused or not? Well, we have freedom in Yeshua, 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 we honor the birth of our savior by giving gifts that satisfy the flesh or the Holy Spirit within? Is Christ really the reason for the season? Ultimately, we know this day is not needed to celebrate Christ’s birth–we do this everyday; it is just a time 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 there’s nothing wrong with celebrating Christ’s birth (or your own) whenever you want to–in the way you choose, though it should be Christ-Centered and not wasteful. So if you celebrate Christmas by buying 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 really 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 absolutely necessary. If the person doesn’t need anything, maybe you should give to those who do.
2. Is it an obvious distraction?
Almost anything could be a distraction. But we should try to stay away from gifts that will 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? Should you put that money away to save for your future? Perhaps you should be more creative with your gifts if you really want 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 do need to buy quality shoes (if you want them last), but they do not need to be extra’d up (unless its some kind of investment). 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 a celebration of His birth. How are you honoring him? Think about that. What are you willingly 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 really things to ponder whenever you buy something. I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my family & God being the center of the day, and everyday (except when that flesh creeps).