I saw a Pinterest cartoon recently in which the subject pointed out that America is the only place where people express gratitude on Thanksgiving for all the things they have and spend the next day shoving people over to get the stuff they don’t. Sadly, Black Friday is only the beginning.
Maybe we won’t fight with another parent for the last pair of Nikes or push over a grandma to get the last doll or video game. But most of us still fall short of Christlikeness when it’s time to make Christmas purchases. To watch us, people might think we believe ’tis the season to be grumpy and greedy.
So here are some suggestions for how to shop like a Christian:
Give. Collect your spare coins, and encourage that shivering Salvation Army bell ringer by dumping handfuls of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in the kettle.
Stay out of debt. Be a good steward. Make a budget, and shop the ads. How twisted is it that we honor the birth of the One whose Word says to avoid slavery by racking up bills that leave us begging for His provision in January? If necessary, sell some books or that synthesizer you’ve neglected for two years, but stay within your budget. (Better yet, defy commercialization and find ways to give of yourself. Bake. Sew. Frame pictures. Write poetry. Give a gift of lessons. Offer free childcare to the friend with three toddlers. Create instant cocoa mix and give it in a mug you’ve painted.)
Give gifts that honor. Access the Samaritan’s Purse or World Vision catalogs and consider donating gifts in honor of people on your list who already have everything and would appreciate the gesture. Cheer up wounded soldiers, help bring water to a village needing a well, or provide chickens to a family wanting to be self-sustaining. Proverbs 11:25 says, “The one who provides water for others will himself be satisfied.”
Give without actually giving. Lots of charities benefit by being “Amazon Associates.” That is, they have an arrangement with Amazon.com that if people order by accessing a link from the organization’s blog or web site, the charity gets a percentage of the sale at no cost to the buyer. I have an Amazon Associates arrangement on my private blog to help raise money for my husband’s mission work. So check with your church or favorite charity to see if they have such an arrangement, and you can benefit them by using their link.
Determine to support what is good. Ask yourself if the gifts you plan to give will contribute to what is true, honorable, and right. Or will they include CDs with nasty lyrics, and DVDs of shows that undermine your beliefs? Use your dollars to uplift rather than oppress. Why not support survivors of human trafficking in their craft of making jewelry, bath products, hats—all sorts of beautiful and creative products? You can purchase items made by trafficking survivors from such organizations as Made by Survivors and Delicate Fortress.
Be patient and joyful. Patience and joy are fruits of the Spirit. So ask the Lord to control you. Imagine you’re that clerk who’s served a long line of impatient people for three hours. Suddenly someone who’s not in a hurry stands in front of you with a smile and a greeting. You know that person has waited as long as everyone else, but she’s still cheerful, understanding, and calm—even when you mess up her order. Before that customer departs, she tells you to have a Merry Christmas. What a difference!
Be honest and just. Avoid buying products from companies that exploit workers. If you’re in a bartering situation, stop pushing hard for a better deal if you know your low price will rip off a worker. If a clerk gives you too much change, give it back. If you wear something once, don’t return it and pretend you never took it out of the bag. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Pay attention to the music. Yes, you’ll hear “Frosty, the Snowman” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” But tucked in among the holiday songs you’ll also hear “O, come let us adore Him” and “Chr-i-ist, the Savior is born.” You’ll pass choirs singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” but they might also include “Away in a Manger.” Savor those moments. Others may miss the point, but we don’t have to. We, of all people, have reason to believe ’tis the season to be jolly!