Merry Christmas!

I saw this slogan for a retail store recently: “Peace and joy sold here.” This typifies our cultural mindset that you can ‘buy happiness’. Christmastime is the peak of this thinking as everyone plans their gift lists and their ‘get’ lists. When I was reading in Matthew this week I was drawn into the words of Jesus regarding this issue. Before you get carried away and spend too much time and money on things with little to no true satisfaction think about these 3 things.

1) You can’t serve both God and stuff. (Matt. 6:24)

Jesus warned people about the allure and mastery of possessions. If you are so focused on something making you happy or satisfying you then Jesus won’t matter. Stuff will get your attention. It will make you worry. You will be hesitant to lend or give to others. But, when Jesus is your master you’ll live open-handed with your money and your possessions. You’ll think less about what you can get and more about what you can give.

It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that you can determine what you really value by looking at where you spend your money. If you spend more every month on coffee, eating out, clothes, movies, music, etc than you give you to your church, the needy, or your family you are serving the wrong master. Jesus was very clear in His teaching that we must take care of orphans, the poor, the church and our own families first. You need to stop letting your spending control you, you need to let Jesus control your spending. Before you buy something, pray and ask God where He wants you to direct that money towards. It’s not really our money or stuff anyway, it all came from God.mother-teresa-quote

2) Stuff warps our focus. (Matt. 6:25-32)

The more you have the more you tend to worry. I’ve traveled around the world to Africa, Asia, and all throughout Latin America. I’ve seen some of the poorest of the poor in jungles and slums and one thing has always caught my attention in these poor places; the clarity of needs. These people aren’t confused about what they need. Some of the shacks they call home house no more than 20 possessions. Could you imagine only have 20 objects that are yours? If you could only have 20 things to survive on what would you pick? It’s a tough question considering the average teenager in America owns even more than 20 T-shirts. You probably have over 100 items just when it comes to clothes. Excessive? Maybe. Do we really need more clothes? Do we really need more stuff?

I believe the more stuff you have the less you really know what you need, the less you know God’s purpose and plan for your life. We worry about things that don’t really matter. When is the last time you had to worry about whether you’d have enough food to live on? Have you ever worried about whether you’d have a bed and a home to sleep in? Because we have so much stuff we tend to worry about things like; will my friends like me? Will I get good grades? Will I get into that really expensive college? Will I do well in my sport and win something? I’m not saying that school, sports, and friends are trivial or unimportant. What I’m saying is those things aren’t worth worrying about. The fact that you are in school, playing a sport, and have time for friends are blessings! Almost 20% of the kids and teens in the world don’t even get to go to school or play games. They are either working for their family, enslaved, or trying to survive on their own.

Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single thing to your life? Trust me to meet your needs.” What you worry about reveals something about your priorities. Let’s get our focus off of our stuff and onto the heart of Jesus. What do we really need, not just want?What does the world around us need? Refocus.

teen-boy-christmas-list3) Only people las forever. (Matt. 6:19, 32)

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” Everything you get for Christmas this year won’t last. It will fall apart, break, or be lost soon. Stop. Take a look around. Not at the stores full of stuff – look at the people around you. What can you give? How can you serve? Christmas is centered around this message, Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to our world to rescue us. He came to set us free from the mastery of sin and death. We don’t need more stuff we need more of our Savior. Jesus alone will satisfy our hearts and Jesus alone can bring peace and joy – not a store. 

That’s the most incredible thing about Jesus, He is the first and greatest Christmas gift. You can’t buy His love, forgiveness, or salvation. It’s a gift. He gave His life up for us freely and bought eternal life for us with His own blood. His gift of life will never fade, rust, or be taken away from you. Hold on to that. Celebrate the gift of Jesus this year by shifting your holiday focus from getting to giving, from selfishness to serving, from fretting to faith.

What would it look like if you trusted God more with your daily life? Would you be freed up to focus more on the eternal? Would you make a difference with your time, talent, and treasures?

I believe so.

-JOSH