All year long, I am training my children to not be greedy, to appreciate non-material things, to store their treasures in heaven not on earth, and to think if others first.
Come fall, our relatives begin asking them for birthday and christmas wish lists. My children have October and January birthdays.
It is frankly contrary to what I am trying to teach them the rest of the year. For a few months every fall and winter, they begin to be greedy and unhappy with what they have.
This year, I am making lists of things that I think would benefit my children or that I know that they will like –particularly things that they actually need– so that they aren’t spending hours trying to make lists and focusing on the stuff they don’t have. These lists will be given to relatives.
From me, they will get one gift of something that they need for Christmas.
If we have any extra money we will be spending it on others and teaching our children to be focused on giving not receiving.
We’ve been working up to this the last few years as we gradually decreased the amount we were spending and the number of gifts they received.
I am not anti-Christmas, but I am trying to be very deliberate in what I teach my children.
I have also been very convicted that last few years about how we spend our money. On a daily basis, we’re struggling to make ends meet and bear the financial burden of my health expenses without insurance (like many lower-middle class American we fall into the little-talked-about loophole in the Affordable Care Act of not qualifying for insurance subsidy even if you can’t afford insurance; perhaps I’ll discuss the details another time).
One year, I realized I was buying toys that they didn’t really need for relatives while I couldn’t even afford to buy much-needed pants and shoes for my own children.
On the flipside of our constant financial struggle is my knowledge that we in the USA are wealthier than almost the entire rest of the world. Did you know that the majority of people in the world live on less than $2 per day? Knowing that and knowing that I’ll answer to God for how I spend my money, how can I justify spending hundreds of dollars on a single day of lavish gift-giving?
It quite honestly makes my stomach turn.
I tried to explain this to relatives last year, and I was accused of trying to make excuses not to participate in American traditions. I was accused of rejecting parts of Christianity. I was also accused of cutting corners by making gifts. Anyone who makes gifts knows that they are rarely actually cheaper, but it has the element of personal touch which appeals to me. I stopped making gifts after certain relatives informed me that the gifts were thrown out the day after Christmas (handmade items that I had spent months making).
Although I acknowledge that Jesus probably wasn’t actually born on December 25th and I acknowledge that historically Christmas was a pagan holiday, it is the day we have chosen to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. I’m certainly not rejecting parts of Biblical Christianity since Christmas is not even discussed in scripture. The worst thing I could honestly be accused of is rejecting an American Christian tradition. This doesn’t bother me at all. We’re commanded to not get caught up in the traditions of men that are contrary to the Bible.
I have tried many things to take the focus off the commercialization and greed of Christmas, to teach my children to be content with what they have.
My second issue with our Christmas gift giving tradition is its reciprocal nature. According to our culture, if you give me a gift, I must also give you a gift and vise verse. But scripture says not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. The gift-giving that honors God is the kind no one knows about, the kind you don’t get thanked for and a gift back from. If you’re not rewarded on earth, you’re rewarded in heaven. If you’re thanked and receive a gift in return, there’s no reward for you in heaven. Our Christmas traditions — even among Christian people– ignore this basic scriptural concept.
So, I’m putting the brakes on our immediate family gift giving. I can’t really get out of extended family gift exchanges –at least not graciously, but in the past few years I’ve petitioned for and finally gotten gift exchanges as opposed to everyone giving everyone a gift.
As far as our family goes, Scott and I rarely get gifts for each other anyway.
Our children actually understand my reasons and motivations. I’ve been very deliberate in explaining my scriptural reasons for my choices.
We will probably still do our advent calendar with Bible reading. It focuses us on Christ.
We might even do stockings. Although it is Santa-related, the story behind stockings reaffirms my mission to teach my children to give without reward. Our stockings last year had socks, underwear, pencils, pens, ect.
If we do more gift-giving it will be anonymous. We may have actually done anonymous stuff in the past, but if I tell you, it would no longer be anonymous.
Try telling someone that you’re not giving gifts for Christmas and watch their response.
What’s wrong with you?
Don’t you love Jesus?
You’re cancelling Christmas?
I’m not even suggesting that we cancel Christmas –although I have been accused of that. I’m just suggesting that we each live circumspectly, considering our choices.
Regardless of what the world or other Christians do, we each, individually, will answer to God one day for our own choices, for our use of what God gave us. I’m just trying to make choices that won’t leave me ashamed when I stand before Him. I’m trying to live intentionally, not just assuming that what is considered normal is also what’s best. Sometimes, oftentimes, it isn’t.
I’m here to honor Him with my life.
Am I honoring Him?
I pray I am.
May my life bring Him glory.