Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Christian Guide to Black Friday and Christmas Shopping

I am writing this post the day before Thanksgiving and I think this is a great message for this time of year.  It is a time of great charity, but also a time of great selfishness.  In fact, the pressures of the world make it all about selfishness with Black Friday sales, Santa Claus, lavishing gifts onto our children, and looking forward to receiving gifts ourselves.  You may try to argue that it is about giving and not about receiving, but in being honest with ourselves we do have to admit we love receiving.  We also need to admit that it is not about giving, but about spoiling.  I really have it on my heart that we are teaching our children that it is about receiving toys and goodies when that is not the message of Christ or even Christmas at all. 

This may be early for a Christmas message, but according to the world, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving when all the stores open up early, offer low prices, and try to get you to spend your money. It is really a great scam when you think about it.  The stores get us to spend money on each other and they make all the profit.  I get someone a $30.00 sweater and they in turn get me a $30.00 shirt.  Neither of us gained anything really.  Commercialism just got us to spend $60.00 that we may not have otherwise spent except that it was our tradition to buy gifts for each other this time of the year.  And I admit, I am just as sucked into it as everyone else.  But, again, this is not the example of Christ. 

So why do we give gifts at Christmas?  Is it because Jesus was God's gift to us?  Was it because of the gifts Jesus received at his birth?  Neither of those have to do with reciprocal gift giving and spoiling our children. It is about worshipping our Lord and spreading His gift throughout the world.  Christmas is not about giving gifts to people who already have in exchange for what you don't need, but it is about giving to those who can not give back.  Christmas is not about exchanging gifts and enriching stores but it is about giving gifts and enriching lives with the love of Christ shared by us. Reciprocal giving is not giving at all. 

I want to share what the Bible says about giving.
"Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise." Luke 6:30-31 NLKV
Three important aspects of giving are in this passage.  First, we are to give to everyone who asks.  That means if a poor person comes to us on the streets and asks for a dollar and we have it, we should give it.  The Bible does not say to question them asking if they will spend it on alcohol or by asking them if they "choose" to be homeless.  No, we are to give to everyone who asks.  If they are lying about their own circumstances, that is sin is on their heads.  If you choose not to give when you can, it is on yours.  The next is that if someone takes something of yours, do not ask for it back.  In other words, if you offer something to someone then do not ask for it back, ever.  If you give a gift you are to consider it theirs.  And finally, just as you want men to do for you, do to them likewise.  That means that if you do want people to be generous with you, the right approach is to be generous with others first.  All you think you expect people to do for you, you must be willing to do for them first.
"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." Luke 6:32 NKJV
We all love our families and our children and they love us back.  Of course there is nothing wrong with that, but there is also nothing special about that.  Even pagans love their children and families.  For us, the calling is higher.  Just as we love our own families, we need to love those who do not love us.  We need to love those who do not even know us.  We need to be outward and generous with our love, especially as we enter the season of celebrating the gift of our Lord.  It is wonderful that we exchange gifts with our loved ones, but again it is nothing special about that.  This time of year, we need to express that love in meeting the needs of people who are not our loved ones.  That is the example of Christ.
"And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. " Luke 6:33 NKJV
Again, doing good things for our friends and family during the holidays are nice, but it is nothing special.  You are just doing nice things for people who do nice things for you.  The example from Jesus is to do good for those who can not do good things for you.  A holiday potluck with your family is nice, but serving in a soup kitchen or helping someone in need is Christlike.
"And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back." Luke 6:34 NKJV
Lending someone a few dollars to help them get by is nice, but it is nothing special.  Giving someone money to help them get by is Christlike.  Lending without the expectation of return is giving and giving is what we are called to do.  Remember that this holiday season.  Remember that we are to give to those who can not ever return what we give.
"But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil." Luke 6:35 NKJV
And now Jesus tells us why.  We are to lend without expecting return, help with no expectation of gratitude, and love with no expectation that it will be reciprocated because that is what our Lord did for us.  We do so because that is our example in Christ.   How was He kind to the unthankful and evil? 
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NKJV
Jesus did not die for us because we loved Him.  Jesus did not die for us knowing we would return His love in kind.  Jesus died for us while we were still sinners.  Jesus died for us while we were enemies of God.  He died for many sinners who will never come to know Him.  He died for us knowing we would continue to sin once we received His grace.  And that needs to be our example this holiday season.

I am not saying it is wrong to exchange gifts for our families or stay out of our family Pollyanna.  That is not the example of Christ at all.  If anything, the example would be to give gifts to everyone regardless of whether they would get you something in return or not.  What I am saying is that we need to be just as generous with those in need as we are with our family.  We can not forsake those in need to spoil those who aren't. We can't judge their needs or make excuses as to why they do not deserve our generosity.  It is God's job to judge them, not ours.  God calls us to be generous, even to our enemies.  God calls us to love, even to those who are unloving.  God calls us to help those in need, regardless if they are thankful or not. 

We give gifts this time of year as a celebration of the birth of our Lord.  We do so for several reason. The most shallow reason is that we celebrate the Santa Claus mentality, especially regarding our children.  But let us take a look at the real Santa Claus.  The real man behind the legend was Saint Nicholas of Myra who was known for his generous gifts to the poor.  The specific gift that is attributed to his legend was in giving the wedding dowries for three young ladies so that they could get married and not turn to prostitution.  If you want to give like Santa gave, the example is not to spoil your children but to give to the poor. 

Some may give as a commemoration of God's gift of Christ to the world and in that we share that generosity with our loved ones.  Again, if we want to give in the spirit of God giving Christ to the earth, it is not about exchanging gifts with our loved ones.  If you want to give in the spirit of God's gift to the earth, then you have to give generously to those who can not provide for themselves.  Not only that, you would have to give generously to those who do not love us.  That is the example of God in sending our Lord for our salvation. 

Some give in the tradition of the three wise men who presented gifts to the Lord.  That tradition is not honored in exchanging gifts with one another.  If we were really giving in the same tradition, we would be giving to the Lord.  And how do we give to the Lord? 
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" Matthew 25: 34-40 NKJV
That kind of sums it all up doesn't it?  If you want to give to the Lord this holiday season, give your money and gifts to someone who needs it.   What you do for the least on this earth is as though you did it for our Lord in heaven.  If you want to commemorate His birthday, then commemorate it by doing what He asks.  As we enter the holiday season this year, let's celebrate Jesus on his selfless terms not our own selfish ones.  We can not say we are celebrating the birth of our Lord if we are not doing it in the Spirit of the Lord.  Give to the needy and if you really want to give something to the Lord, give Him truly Lordship of your life, give Him your heart.  You may get a sweater from mom, but you will get eternal rewards from our Lord.  So if you join the crazy masses this weekend to begin your holiday shopping, keep this message in mind.  I am going to close with a verse I use time and time again because it applies to so much of our lives.  Even this weekend and the rest of the shopping days to Christmas, we need to do it as unto the Lord.  Not just in our behavior, but in our choices as to what to buy and who to buy for.  Even Christmas shopping should be as unto the Lord.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV 

1 comment:

  1. "Even Christmas shopping should be as unto the Lord." :)
    Let's serve Him this season with giving hearts!!