People often bemoan the commercialization of Christmas. Each year as the Christmas sales begin earlier and earlier and Black Friday tries to overshadow Thanksgiving we hear the common complaints that people have forgotten the true meaning of the holiday.
I won’t use this column to explain to you all the theological importance of Advent and Christmas. You can come to my church for that at 10 a.m. on Sundays and 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Instead, I want to point out that there is actually something good and worthwhile buried in the commercialism and materialism of modern Christmas: generosity.
I am not saying that going into debt to buy your friends and family unnecessary and excessive gifts is a good thing, just that the drive to be give good gifts to people we love is buried somewhere deep in the holiday gift-giving rush.
The Bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil. Money has incredible power over us. Money can rule us. It can rule us if we have too much or if we have too little. It can rule us at every stage of our lives. It can rule us through fear or through greed. In fact, I think that, for just about everyone, the fear of losing money or the desire to have more money are the two things that drive most of our thoughts and actions.
We do not usually realize this because it happens subtly and indirectly, but it is there. Once money gets its hooks into you it is almost impossible to be free of it’s influence.
If you don’t believe me, take some time to really think about what causes the stress in your life, how you try and relieve that stress, and what you do to try and make yourself happy. Really think about it and be honest with yourself.
There is, I believe, only one way to really combat the insidious influence of money: intentional generosity. This is somewhat different then just giving nice presents to people you love. Intentional generosity means being generous even when you don’t want to be. Even when you do not think you can afford to give money to charity or help your relative pay off a bill they cannot afford.
Intentional generosity, for those of you who are churchgoers, means giving faithfully and regularly to your church. In fact, intentional generosity means that, even if you do not go to church, you give your money away regularly. Why? Because giving away money regularly means that you believe you can be just as happy and satisfied on 90%, or 95% or 80%, etc, of you income as you would be on 100%.
It is, in fact, the only way to break the hold that our money has over us. If we willfully, repeatedly sacrificing some of our money for no personal gain our money has no way to control us. Imagine what our world would look like if everyone did this, all the time. Imagine how much happier we would be. Imagine how little poverty there would be. We would not need government programs to help the poor if we were all intentionally generous.
So, embrace the spirit of the season year round: give and give joyfully and generously, even when it scares you.