Thoughts from Black Friday

Posted on November 30, 2011 · Posted in Culture, Holidays

It was early morning on Black Friday. Though the sun was still below the horizon, millions of people had left the comfort of their homes to purchase gifts to give to friends and family in exactly in one month’s time. Given man’s fallen nature what is it causes us to even think about giving something to someone else?

All of us began life as takers, not givers. Making the shift, that fundamental shift, from taking to giving, is one of the epic battles of life. In human terms, we can only hope that perhaps we have given a little more than we have taken. But that hope is just the deceit of sin. Without Christ, we will always be takers. For Christians, one way that maturity may be measured is by judging which trait dominates us. If we remain primarily takers, we are immature and self-centered.

Unwittingly, Christians may engage in collective bargaining with each other—you do this for me and I will do that for you. This practice makes us appear to be givers. In reality, this attitude reveals that at our core, we remain takers. Our affections remain rooted in what is done for us. We are just as consumed with receiving as the day we were born. Thus, we must confess that we give to get something back. We act like people of the world act. Whether it is in the form of craving material possessions or craving approval  from others, we desperately need to get something in return for our gifts. Apart from a life devoted to the worship of Christ, we will remain takers. Instead of living for God’s glory, we live for our own satisfaction. You see, we tend to measure life by how much we possess.

This view of life is the human experience and condition. Jesus Christ said, almost 2,000 years ago, that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. In other words, being a taker leads only to frustration—to disappointment about what we do not have. So then, what does life consist of?

Life that is truly life consists of giving to others without any expectation of a return for your efforts. Why? Why should anyone even think of that kind of giving—giving without getting anything back? The answer is simple, but challenging.  Here it is:  as Christians we have all that we will ever need in the person of Jesus Christ.

Last Friday the opening bell to the Christmas buying season was sounded. Allow me to ask just this one question—are the gifts you buy this year for you or for the person for whom you are buying them? Think before you answer! Will you be disappointed or sad if you gift doesn’t thrill the recipient? What If he or she doesn’t acknowledge the gift? It may be that you are really buying the gift for yourself. If we buy gifts to win the appreciation of others, then we are buying the gift for ourselves.

Gifts should be a token representing a life that we have invested in those whom we love. If the gift is larger than life, that is, if the gift is the main thing that we give to others, then we give as the world gives. To our wives, our husbands, our children, and our closest friends, gifts should be symbols of what we give to them every day. If they are not, then we are guilty of trying to purchase the affections of others. Or we may be guilty of using the gift to attempt to atone for the way we have mistreated those close to us. If these or similar motivations are driving us, we are still consumed by taking.

Christ urges his people to first give gifts that will never fade or rust or wear out. What is he talking about? Here are just two examples. The gift of time to listen, really listen, to our children is one such gift. Another gift is knowing your spouse so well that every day you give the gift of understanding his or her deepest struggles. Once we have given these eternal gifts, then and only then, we can see clearly to provide the right sort of gift to purchase as expressions of our love. Regardless of what the commercials say, more possessions will not enrich life. Bringing the gift of Christ and his love to each other is giving life that is truly life.

The Black Friday bell has rung. Don’t be swept away in the tsunami of gift-buying, as you race toward the December 25th deadline. Give the love of Christ to those you love.

 

 

 

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.