It's Christmas and I'm broke. Here's Why.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. In high school, I couldn’t wait to express my love for my friends through giving gifts. I liked giving (and shopping) so much that I even bought things for people I wasn’t very close to. The simple act of giving gifts made me happy because I loved seeing the smile on other people’s faces. It made me feel good to know that I helped someone else feel good. I thought, “this is definitely what it means to love and be a cheerful giver.” It sounds great, but my thinking was all wrong.
I recently stumbled across 1 Corinthians 13. It is best known for giving us the definition of love. I’d read it at least a dozen times before, but this time the Holy Spirit showed me something different. As I glanced back & forth at the Christmas gifts I had laid out on the floor, I was forced to question my intentions. This is when I realized that my thoughts about Christmas have really been rooted in my pride and perhaps fully self-seeking. My act of giving gifts wasn’t about love at all – it was about me.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
What I noticed is that love isn’t about what you do for people, but about how you treat them and respond to them on a regular basis. I know that for years we’ve been taught that love is a verb, an action. I still believe that, but this scripture reveals to me that love is in HOW I act toward people, not in performing actions. It doesn’t say “Love is showing up whenever I call. Love is giving me things to make me feel special. Love does whatever I ask.” The Lord’s definition is all in how we handle other people with care. This was key for me because I realized that my act of giving gifts on Christmas had little to do with love at all. It can be a healthy expression of love, but I had taken it too far. At some point, the thought of not giving a gift made me feel guilty and not cheerful at all.
It hit me when I considered the cost. This year, I bought Christmas gifts for 31 people. It started out great. My list of gift receivers was much shorter than 31 at the beginning of November. I enjoyed thinking about what each person would like and carefully planned out what they would receive. The list stretched when I decided to get gifts for the women in my Life Group. I knew exactly what the custom-made gifts would be and I was excited to get them. Then, I decided to get gifts for a family of kids that I love tremendously. I couldn’t just get one kid something because I felt like the others would think I didn’t love them so I chose to get gifts for all of them, all nine. Then, my car broke down. The total to fix it was a whopping $2,400! Just two weeks before Christmas, I still had a few more gifts to get and I had to pay $2,400 to fix my car. As many would do, I began to consider taking some of the gifts back, but my false idea of love wouldn’t let me.
My Life Group already had their custom-made, non-refundable gifts and I couldn’t bear the thought of not giving gifts to this family of nine kids. But, it wasn’t because I thought I would fail at loving them. It was because I thought they would stop loving me. I thought they would value me less. I thought this was the only way they would know I loved them and in turn love me back. It was 100% self-seeking. It was 100% rooted in my pride. The Holy Spirit then showed me that love is not about the gift giving (at any time of the year). Love goes far deeper than that. It’s harder than that. It takes more work than that. It takes us reflecting on God’s love for us in order to love others wholly.
What I find interesting is that God GAVE the ultimate GIFT for us because He LOVED us, but gift giving is not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13. Furthermore, there’s a big difference in God’s giving and the type of giving many of us do for Christmas. The intention is not the same. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”
First off, God gave us who we needed, even though the world rejected him. He considered who we needed, not who or what we wanted. Just think, they thought Jesus was going to come as royalty, not a poor man’s son, not a migrant and a refugee, and most definitely not a servant. Imagine the instant and ongoing love He would’ve received if He didn’t ruffle any feathers and came as a king that they recognized. Christ’s crucifixion was the currency to pay for our sins, not our love. God’s giving was a result of HIS love for us, even though the world did not love him back. In fact, God knew that many people in the world would never love him back, but he sacrificed his son anyways. God has never needed us, but He chose us because He loves us. He was self-less in giving His son and throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His love for us in the way Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give gifts at all. I honestly believe that God gives us the resources to help our brothers & sisters through our giving, but what I am saying is that perhaps we should reconsider our intentions and motivations for our giving. If you’re going broke for Christmas, ask yourself: Is this about me or them? Am I using gift giving as a cop out? Am I secretly trying to buy someone else’s love or prove that I’m better than another person? Am I doing it to receive something in return? Do I exhibit love toward people in the way it’s described in the Bible? The answers are yours to discover.
Note: This blog was originally published in 2018.