I recently chatted with a lady who talked about having anxiety attacks. Now I used to have those frequently in the past, so I was able to offer some advice. Before too long though, she began talking to another lady nearby about how their pastor nailed it in his sermon the other night. I was curious so I asked what it was on. I was told it was about how we should be giving money to the poor instead of buying gifts at Christmas.
Somehow, I think anxiety attacks and messages like that are not unrelated.
So what of it? Is it okay to buy those gifts at Christmastime? Could we not spend the money going to buy that Wii to help children in underdeveloped nations? Could the money that went to buy that DVD for your brother have gone to the Salvation Army? Could the money for that book you got your Mom not go to the church offering?
Somehow, this reminds me of someone else commenting on an expensive item. Could not it have been sold and the money given to the poor? If you are thinking biblically, I hope you’ll remember that that was Judas Iscariot who asked that to Jesus upon seeing him being anointed with expensive perfume. His answer was that they would always have the poor with them, but not him.
Don’t get me wrong on this. I’m not against giving money to the poor. I have great admiration for the ministry of the Salvation Army for instance. I do believe that you should be supporting your local church. However, I don’t think you should suffer guilt for buying gifts on Christmas day.
And no, I’m not saying this because I expect a lot of loot. As I’ve got older, I’ve found there is less and less I really want. Most of my gifts are in the line of books. I’ve asked mainly for household items this year though. The big one for me will probably be a vacuum for the apartment. Thus, I’m not saying this out of my own interest.
I do know what Christmas was like growing up though. For me, I loved walking into my aunt’s house on Christmas Eve and seeing the place loaded up with gifts. I could not believe it each year. It seemed there were more and more. Of course, as I grew older, the place got smaller and smaller. I now see the greatest joys are the gag gifts sometimes given and the “Who’d want it?” gifts.
Being away from home at a much greater distance now, I have had to rely on my own traditions still. I made sure my roommate and I went out and bought a Christmas tree. I have a few gifts underneath it already. I plan to keep tradition with my family until I get married and start having a family of my own to build our traditions with.
I think several other children deserve that as well.
I have no problem with you giving a gift to someone on Christmas. Each gift is a way of saying “I care for you and I want you to know that.” Generally, when I buy gifts, I have been most secretive. I don’t usually like people to tell me what they want. I try to study the person and see if I can get them something that I know will match their heart. If my mother’s words are any indication, I do a good job!
There is a great joy in seeing someone upon a gift and see that smile on their face. I don’t think there is any wrong in that. Could the money have been spent elsewhere? Sure it could have! Let’s stop though before we go down this road and see if there are any other examples we should consider.
You’re a married man and you just spent a bundle to take your wife out for your 25th anniversary. That money could have gone to the poor. Did you do wrong?
You just went to the ball game with your son for some bonding. That money could have gone to the poor. Did you do wrong?
You got on a plane and flew to be a bridesmaid in your sister’s wedding. That money could have gone to the poor. Did you do wrong? (Never mind how much your parents spent on the wedding!)
With everything we do, the money could have gone to the poor! It could have gone instead of you buying gas in your car or even buying your car! The money you use to buy groceries or pay for the internet could have gone there. The money you used to buy piano lessons could have gone there.
Let’s not forget about time! The time I spent watching Smallville could have been spent in Bible Study. Did I do wrong? I don’t think so. I’m not a machine. I’m allowed some leisure. The time you spent soaking in the tub could have been spent in prayer instead. Does that mean you did wrong? The time you spent cooking a meal for your family could have been spent in evangelizing on the streets.
Granted, many of us might need to get our priorities more in alignment at times, but I think while this preacher’s message was well-intentioned, it lays an unnecessary burden on people. We should support those less fortunate than ourselves and devote time to Christian activity, but we have to remember that we can’t just give, give give. We have to relax some as well and the apostles pointed out that we have to care for our own families as well. Yes. That applies even to those in ministry.
This Christmas, when you’re with family and friends, enjoy the gifts they give you, and enjoy the gifts you give them, and be sure to remember the gift God gave you, that of his son. Don’t let guilt kill your holiday. (And it only will if you let it.)