I read a statistic today that Americans will spend close to $600 billion this year on retail goods for Christmas, whereas $15 billion could feed the entire world. Without question, we live in a consumer-driven culture. Although there's nothing inherently wrong with "consuming," it's when our lives are driven by consumption that we have a problem. We all consume every day--food, information, media, conversation--but we need to be cautious lest our consuming consumes us.
I always find it interesting when we categorize sin into what's acceptable and what's offensive. We don't overtly do this, of course, but it's much easier to identify really "bad" sins and overlook minor offenses, especially in our own lives. One of the "minor offenses" that tends to be overlooked is greed. We recognize this offense in others when they seem driven to possess more and more and give less and less. We see it when they act greedy and are never satisfied. They try to fill the endless void in their lives with more consumption, more possessions, more gadgets and things. But in our own lives, it's much harder to see. We think we actually do need a TV in every room, a new car every few years, and heated toilet seats. That's right, heated toilet seats. Our wants are reclassified as needs, and so we don't question owning forty-pairs of shoes or a closet filled with clothes we hardly ever wear.
Now, I'm not advocating a spending freeze. And I'm not suggesting we don't buy any Christmas presents, or that we only own one suit or dress, and never wear makeup, because it's too worldly. I'm not telling you how much is too much. But I am challenging you to look at your life, possessions, and consumption and ask yourself, "Am I living just like any other consumer-driven American, or is my consumption under the lordship of Jesus Christ?" Is your consuming balanced with giving? Are you trying to fill a void in your life by owning more, eating more or spending more? Jesus warns us, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). Do you define your self-worth based on how much money you have, what kind of car you drive, or where you live?
I'm no "Scrooge," but I do call us to deeper reflection and self-awareness. If Christ is not clashing with some of the things in your life, then you're probably not following Jesus close enough. If we're more comfortable with our culture than we are with Christ, then we're not encountering Christ at the deepest levels of our hearts. So this Christmas, in addition to buying those last minute Christmas presents, why not sponsor a child in a third-world country, give a special gift to a missionary, or serve through a local mission? Consider what Jesus is calling you to do, to live more simply so that others can simply live.
May this Christmas season be filled with joy more than things, peace more than gadgets, and love more than possessions. Merry Christmas!