Let’s be honest. We know we shouldn’t buy so much stuff. Deep down, we all understand it.

How can we who follow the Christ who told a pious young man to give up everything he owns still think we can fill our lives with more stuff?

We who talk about “putting the Christ in Christmas” also camp out on Thanksgiving to bust down the doors on Black Frida, trample our neighbors, and battle for the last doorbuster in the pile.

And when we have kids, that pile of stuff gets even bigger.

There is something fundamentally wrong with our approach to gift giving. And it is spiritually devastating.

For $12 you can save a life.

What turned me on to giving to Episcopal Relief and Development was this one idea:

For just $12, I could save a life.

Through an organization called Nets for Life, $12 saves someone from Malaria. They provide mosquito nets to high-diseased areas. But more importantly, they provide training on how to use them and support when they tear.

For $12, you can prevent someone from dying.

And here in Indiana, we have a program which provides health insurance for the homeless for that exact same amount. $12 per year.

We can save someone’s life for $12. Cheaper than a Starbucks mug or one dinner at Olive Garden.

Serving two masters.

The challenge Jesus gives us about money and wealth is that we hardly see how we are serving that other master. The money monster often called Mammon.

I don’t think we have a problem hearing the case for generosity. Our problem is the case for sacrifice.

Hearing $12 can save a life is great. Most of us with the means gladly put the cash in the plate or swipe our card in a Square Reader. But when it comes to forgoing that nice dinner, we start to waffle.  Or when invited to give one fewer gift to our own son or daughter so that another person’s child can have one, we suddenly get tight-fisted.

But the root of this struggle isn’t that it’s a zero-sum game. It’s about priority. It isn’t taking from your child to give to another. Or opening your wallet to give to all. It’s what spending all this money on all this stuff of ours does to us.

The pious young man thought he could buy his way into heaven. Or follow all the right rules and “inherit” the eternal life owed him.

Jesus’s response is to invite him into the process of removing the true obstacles: wealth, power, security. That he might be free to follow.

Jesus doesn’t demonize the stuff or the desire to be happy or make each other happy. He tries to help us see how we make following Him our focus.

To eliminate our distractions so that we can see what really matters.

This Week.

The Advent Conspiracy invites us to try something this week: a spending freeze.

Spending freeze –

Take a week and “pause” from spending. Commit to stop buying anything that isn’t necessary. (Yikes! This can be as difficult for parents as well as children.) Use all of the tension to help foster a conversation about our true needs as opposed to things we look to for comfort or rescue. Keep a list of everything your family “wants” to buy in a given week.

  • How does it feel to be constricted in our spending? Why?
  • How do we determine what is absolutely necessary?
  • What does this experience reveal about our values?
  • Create some of your own family guidelines here. Maybe spending would be allowed only in generosity towards others…

PRAY –

Confess any frusterations in spending less and how it might affect your attitude as a family, and then give thanks for all of the blessings Christ HAS given you! Walk through each room of your home and express gratitude.

If you or your family want to follow along, download the family guide and get started!