Dollars and sense.
Financial matters are often a source of Christmas stress. And, no wonder. We Americans have mastered the arts of Christmas spending. The statisticians at Gallup have predicted that American consumers will spend an average of $852 in Christmas season 2020, slightly more than the previous year. After mondo bizarro 2020 the researchers anticipated declines in Christmas gift buying, decorating, and our other seasonal frills. But, there was a rally in November and the rate of spending growth will most likely exceed the annual increase of seasons past. Gallup's latest data was released on November 25, 2020, in a report written by Lydia Saad. If you'd like to reference it, please click here.
Another report indicated that Americans spent in excess of a trillion dollars Christmas 2019. Yes, that is $1,000,000,000,000+, twelve zeros. More than 53% of Americans had a Christmas budget but most spent above it. What is more, more than 21% of American shoppers went into debt fulfilling their shopping dreams. And, there are numbers and more numbers that characterize our love for the season and the many compulsions that encourage us to give. And, that may be the reason for the financial tension that are such a part of these Christmas blues. You know it's true. Keeping up with the Joneses is a real pressure of the season. So is our desire to be seen as generous, perhaps lavish givers. And, don't forget the guilt when we can't be, or the stress of buying just the right gift. Or, perhaps, the shame at having to be less generous, or not being able to purchase that expensive item for a loved one.
How does Scripture guide us through pressures like these---
1. Please God with your finances and not other people.
Yes, peer pressure is a lifetime tension. It's a stress at Christmas as well, when we feel compelled to keep up with family and friends in our Christmas giving. Remember The Apostle Paul's instruction---"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1: 10, ESV). Or, the words of Christ, "For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God" (John 12: 43, ESV). We should not let the world system dictate our dollars and sense.
2. Develop priorities about your spending, even at Christmas.
From the beginning of time there have priority clashes. What is right in God's eyes and what is acceptable in the world system. The Apostle Paul reminded the Romans, Christians living in a oppressive world---"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2, ESV). There is also Solomon's promise---"Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor" (Proverbs 21: 21, ESV).
3. Provide for the necessities of your family as a first priority.
Christmas giving is a blessing. Being generous honors God. But, providing for the needs of our family and loved ones is of primary importance. The Apostle Paul wrote, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5: 8, ESV). Yes, we should be generous and bold. But, care for our families basic needs is of great importance.
4. Be generous in helping others as a Christmas objective.
Many families adopt those less fortunate or organizations who assist others as a family Christmas giving project. The Spirit led the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews to write, "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (Hebrews 13: 16, ESV). Helping other is blessed Christmas giving.
5. Pray for guidance, and remember the reason for the season.
Yes, it's the season. In the joy, hope, and peace that is ours we should seek his wisdom and guidance. Join King David in praying, "Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me" (Psalm 119:133, ESV). And yes, please, let's remain focused on the real meaning of the season, that is, glorifying Christ---"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12, ESV).
Hey. Merry Christmas. And, don't forget dollars and sense. That is, biblical sense.