“Tis the season for a daily flash sale” declared the subject line atop my inbox this morning. Below that, a pet store promo smartly quipped, “Dachshund through the snow.” Scrolling down, I cringed at “Sale-tacular Holi-deals,” and chuckled at a cartooned President Trump promising, “This Christmas is gonna be YUUUUGE.”
Yep, it’s that time of year. A couple hundred emails a day begging us to take notice and load up our shopping carts. But these days it’s not just about buying gifts for family and friends. There’s a lot of personal treasure hunting going on too, right? Flashy electronics, tools, clothes, home décor… the list goes on.
Christians have differing views on the “Black-Friday-‘til-Christmas” shopping frenzy. Some frown on the materialistic premise. Some love the deals and savings. Others just enjoy the spirit of Christmas cheer as they hunt for perfect gifts for loved ones.
No matter what your viewpoint is, shopping at this time of the year is not inherently wrong. But amidst all the sales and glitzy toys, it sure can be a struggle to stay spiritually focused. How can we continue to keep a godly perspective at this time of year? How do we maintain the proper balance between savvy-spender and manic-materialist? Let’s take a quick look at an example from Scripture.
In Luke 12 the Lord told a parable about a man who wanted way more than he needed:
“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ (v16-19).
The solution to this man’s “dilemma” was very “American,” wasn’t it? He had too much stuff, so his answer was, of course... I need more storage space! That way he could acquire even more stuff, retire early, and enjoy himself for years to come!
While saving and investing is wise when we have a biblical perspective, Jesus made it clear that this farmer had the wrong mindset:
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (v20-21).
Now bringing up this parable at this time of year is not meant to be a killjoy. Your mall trip doesn’t have to be a guilt trip. You can still keep Amazon on your “Favorites” tab. But let’s look at four areas where the farmer fell short, and as a self-check, compare them to our own attitudes during this shopping season.
1. Are we thankful?
The farmer never paused to thank the Lord for the blessings of fertile soil and an abundant harvest. Instead, he only looked ahead to his next acquisition: new buildings, and funding a lavish lifestyle.
2. Do we think of others?
The farmer only thought about himself, and how he could add to his own possessions. Notice the emphasis on "I" and "my" in verses 17-19: “What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.… I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come…””
3. Do we share with those who are needy?
With all his excess, the farmer never considered sharing any of his wealth or possessions with those who were less fortunate. He was focused on acquiring more for himself. Why not share those extra crops instead of spending the money to build new barns?
The Lord concluded the parable with this statement: “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven!” (v33).
4. Are we focused on earthly pleasure?
Relax, eat, drink, party… that was the farmer’s end goal (v19). His thoughts and actions were all about his own temporal enjoyment. The Lord said, “A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God" (v21).
The farmer was seeking all his pleasure and security from worldly sources – and isn’t that the mindset the marketing industry sells us during the shopping season? Buying more = more happiness and fulfillment… for those on your gift list, and for yourself!
In sharp contrast, Luke 12:15 warns us to “Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” And Matthew 6:19-20 tells us, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth… Store your treasures in heaven…”
With all the new tech gifts and one-click shopping options, it’s easy to get sidetracked from where our focus should be: Jesus. Shopping and gift-giving are fun, but we should ask ourselves: Has my focus been more on Jesus and His Kingdom for these past several weeks, or more on buying “bigger and better” things?
Even when buying gifts for others, we can ask: Have I spent more time on buying “earthly stuff” for those on my list than I’ve spent praying for spiritual treasure in their lives? And does my giving list include those who are truly needy, as well as those I naturally love to give to?
Our earthly “treasures” will quickly be forgotten when we get to Heaven, but the time we spend enriching our relationship with our Lord Jesus and storing treasures with Him will be enjoyed forever.
“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21
- Ron Reid
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