Editor’s note: I like to post these up after they appear in the paper, but I am behind on doing it and the other one is on my laptop, so I will get it tomorrow or the next day. This is the one from this past Monday.
Many years ago, I heard an evangelical pastor reflecting on the consumer culture of the United States, which also is manifest in many other corners of the modern world and its obsession with stuff. At this season of the year, as many seek to focus on the birth of Christ, there is also a steady undercurrent of this “stuff fixation” all around us. Lots of people are out in stores the day after Thanksgiving after waiting for hours in the cold in some cases, just to get the perfect thing for someone in particular. And those who aren’t foolhardy or brave enough to have hit the stores that day will undoubtedly spend plenty of other days wandering the aisles of a store pondering that very American question, “what do you get for the person who has everything?” The answer is marvelously simple, but I must admit that I didn’t originate this idea; for the person who has everything, you should get them nothing! Even now, I am sure that many readers are gasping in horror at the thought. It just can’t be fitting to get nothing at all. Statistics back this up, because estimates are currently projecting that Americans will spend over $150 billion this year for Christmas and that during a deep recession. Clearly most are not comfortable with the idea of getting nothing for those who have everything.
Believe me, it would be very hard to argue that we don’t already have everything we need in most cases. Even those who are considered poor in the U.S. would be thought fabulously wealthy in the vast majority of places on the planet. If you doubt this, try doing a little research on global poverty. Just a fair warning, it might make you a little more uncomfortable the next time you read something that Jesus has to say about the rich. The $150 billion Americans plan to spend this year would go a long way, if put to use buying things for people who not only don’t have everything, but have almost nothing at all. It would be enough to lift more than a billion people out of extreme poverty; as well as supply the vast majority with basic health, nutrition, clean water, and education for their children and still have money left over.
This week, as you talk about the birth of Jesus and celebrate by giving gifts to others, I would ask you to consider His words in Matthew 25:34-40:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
If we truly want to give gifts in honor of our King, should we be buying for the person who has everything or for someone else?