This may be hard to believe, but yesterday, December 11, was the third Sunday in Advent. That means that Christmas day will officially be upon us in less than two weeks. Of course, the Christmas “shopping” season began the day after Halloween. During this season, we’re invited to join in the purchasing and accumulation of lots of “stuff.”
How will we fare in the face of such consumeristic materialism? Dave Harvey in his chapter on “stuff” in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, reminds us of four lies we believe about stuff that chain our hearts to this fleeting world:
- my stuff will make me happy
- my stuff makes me important
- my stuff makes me secure
- my stuff makes me rich.
If you’ve lived long enough, then you know that stuff is elusive—it is passing away right before our eyes. And yet our age provides no guarantee that we’ve learned this lesson. So, how can we combat materialism and covetousness as we prepare for Christmas this year? Harvey offers some helpful counsel that we all — young and old — would do well to heed.
Consider your true riches.
When you consider that God has given us Christ while we were sinners, then you will see just what a treasure Christ is and how rich you are already. Christ is the one who was rich and became poor for us, “so that you, by his poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Now, through Christ’s death, we are sons and daughters of God and rightful heirs with Christ of His inheritance. So, consider what you deserve (death and hell) and consider what you have received (eternal salvation)—you are rich in Christ! Nothing in this world compares!
Confess and Repent.
Because our culture is consumed with materialism and covetousness we sometimes forget that both are sin. Confess your sinful desire to be satisfied with stuff, and turn away from that desire by faith in order to find your satisfaction in Christ. The Lord is faithful and just to forgive us all our sin, including materialism and covetousness, if we simply come to Him and ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Express specific gratitude.
Marketing strategies seek to breed discontent with what we have in order to get us to buy what we don’t need. We must be thankful for Christ and His saving grace, but we also need to be thankful for everything that God has granted us. Not only has He given us Christ, He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). But that’s not all. As our heavenly Father, He is our great provider. So, every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17). Are you thankful for the house, car, clothing, and food He has provided for you? Everything you have that is good has come from His hand. Therefore, give thanks!
Dematerialize your life.
When you realize how rich you are already and come to terms with the reality that you don’t need all that stuff to make you happy, then you will understand how much stuff you have that you don’t need. Yet, someone else may need the stuff you have—clothes, food, car, etc. So, why not give your extra stuff away? Find out what needs people have and fill that need if you can.
Harvey says, “few things kill the coveting heart more quickly than depriving it of stuff. Few things reflect the heart of God more than giving graciously.” Generosity through regular giving is a great place to begin growing in giving. If you don’t know where to start, I would encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 8-9. There Paul reminds the Corinthians that their giving was to be according to what they were able to give, as they decided in their hearts, generously and cheerfully. For those who already give regularly, generously and cheerfully, continue being faithful! May the Lord continue to bless you richly in order that you may continue being a blessing.
As the pressure of this consumeristic season increases in the days ahead, let us take the time to focus on Christ and to ask God to give us hearts like Christ’s: hearts that give generously and sacrificially. Only then will we be free from the bondage of stuff.