Black Friday, the official kickoff of the Christmas season. At least, that is what we bill it as in America. We have barely swallowed the last bite of turkey from Thanksgiving dinner before we are bundling up in our warmest clothes to get the jump on the line outside our favorite store. You see, you have to miss out on family time to make sure that you make the sale. Christmas is all about getting the best gift, so some things have to be sacrificed, right?
Materialism happens all over the world. It is an unfortunate vice of man. We always want something bigger, something better. We want more than we need and demand that we have it. In our striving to get that singing Elmo doll for our daughter, we miss the laughs and memories that we would make putting the tree up together. Instead of recalling with our grandmother how Thanksgiving was for her when she was a child, we run out into the cold for a piece of shiny plastic that will be in a garage sale pile next Christmas. Instead of creating special memories that last a lifetime, we settle for something that will be old in 6 months.
Since I became a father two years ago, I find that God teaches me much through my daughter. She is at an age now where everything is an impulse. When she decides that she needs a Goldfish cracker, it is the only thought that floods her little mind. She becomes solely focused on that cracker. Not because of hunger, but because as she says, “I want it! I want it right now!” If it happens when we are in the car or I am otherwise unable to respond to her request immediately, there is generally a meltdown. From my perspective, it is not that I am saying “no.” It is that I am saying “not right now.” I know that if I were to take my hands off the steering wheel while on the highway we would wreck. However, the no-impulse-control-having-two-year-old in the back seat doesn’t understand that. In her mind, the person who is in charge of her is refusing her request. Being strong-willed like her father, if I do not give her what she wants, she kicks and screams and sometimes goes after the goldfish on her own. She abandons all to grab that item inhabiting her mind.
All of life becomes a balancing act. I love pizza but I know that if I eat pizza every day my health will suffer, and I will be buying new clothes every few months. Wanting a new camera, a new phone, or a certain toy is not necessarily materialism. Going to a Black Friday sale is not necessarily materialism. Materialism comes in when we value what we are trying to get a good deal on more than the people who we are buying it for. We lose sight of the “who” for the “what.” We become so enamored with the joy an item brings, that we miss the joy of more permanent things in our lives.
Relationship with our family and friends is valuable. Human life is frail and short. Our time with those we love is not something we can recover once lost. The problem with materialism is that it promises something it cannot deliver. It promises happiness with whatever object you are after. Materialism tells you, “If you can just get this sweater, this camera, this Blu-ray player you will finally be happy.” Materialism is greed with a little makeup slapped on. It is a form of idolatry because it tells you that what you buy is in direct connection with your worth and happiness.
Materialism is a replacement for your relationship with God in that the things you covet have control of your life. Jesus spoke directly to this in Luke 12:15-21:
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
It is not just the things we share with our children. The moments with those we love are the ones that will last a lifetime.
During the coming Christmas season take joy in those you love. They do not need batteries or accessories, and they will not be out of style by next Christmas. Our loved ones are those whom God has given us to love, care for, and be encouraged by. Be careful you do not miss the blessing for the gift.