Christmas is a time of giving … and getting. The older we get, it is likely that we become less concerned about getting. We probably enjoy giving more than getting, particularly to our children to see their joy.
Gift giving can be a wonderful thing and a token of our love for those around us. It can help us to enjoy the life that God has given to us. But there are some cautions we must be aware of.
First, gift giving can feed idolatry. At the heart of Christmas lists can be greed, a desire for what we do not have. There is nothing wrong with wanting something we do not have. There is something wrong with allowing our desires to become idols. After Christmas, the inevitable if unspoken comparisons take place. The Bible says that greed is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). A sign in the national park says, “Don’t feed the bears.” Perhaps a sign at the toy store should say, “Don’t feed the idols.”
Second, gift giving can expose the recipient to danger. 1 Timothy 6 warns about the dangers that accrue from a love of money and a desire to get rich. It reminds us that this world is temporary (you can’t take it with you, v. 6) and the joy “stuff” brings only last for a while. It reminds us that “stuff” brings temptation and snare which plunge men into ruin and destruction. It causes people to wander from the faith and pierce themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:7-11). So don’t think of that gift as the next best and greatest thing. Think of it as a bomb, waiting to go off and drive the recipient away from the faith.
Third, gift giving can attach the recipient to a dying world. The more stuff we have, and the nicer stuff we have, the more attached we are to it. Most of us past the age of three or four aren’t attached to the paper wrapping and the bows. We want that gone. But we might get attached to what was in the paper. Many people help others lay up treasures on earth, and as a result strengthen the ties to earth. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure it, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). That is why he says, “Lay up your treasure in heaven … not on earth.”
Fourth, gift giving can decrease sacrifice for missions. When Jesus called us, he called us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). He calls us to leave things from his sake and the gospel’s sake (Mark 10:30). It is hard to preach sacrifice to people who judge Christmas by the pile of stuff under the tree. It is hard to preach sacrifice to people who do not want to leave their stuff.
Gift giving is not bad. It is not sinful. God both gives good gifts and commands us to give them.
But we should be aware of their dangers. We must work to cultivate a heart of contentment and satisfaction and a life of commitment and sacrifice.
So in this season of gift giving, be loving and generous. And be cautious. Do not doom your loved ones to idolatrous and dangerous attachment that may decrease their sacrifice for the gospel.
Now get out there and finish that Christmas shopping