Looking through the so-called “Black Friday” sale circulars a couple of days ago left me nearly breathless. The sheer volume of deals to be had was stupefying. Certainly I was not immune to the emotion of the occasional, “Wow, I’ve got to have that” reaction. A few years ago, I probably would have joined the Friday morning crazies, credit card in one hand and mace in the other as we all convened with the same goal in mind: be one of the lucky 25 to land the deal of the day. I’d like to think I’ve progressed in my walk with Christ over the years, and now certainly material things have far less of a grip on me as they once did. It’s a battle to be sure. Every now and then I see something I’d really like to have – not a need you understand – and I have to remind myself that I manage God’s money. I carry a card in my wallet to remind me of that fact. It’s not that God doesn’t want his followers to have the occasional nice things, but rather that he desires to bless us with far more timeless gifts like grace, mercy and love.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the frenzy of holiday shopping and all of the “must-have” bargains. This year, more than any year in recent memory, it’s all a bit surreal. The latest numbers on unemployment are over 10%, and the combined number of unemployed and underemployed is over 17%. Where are these people getting the money to shop? As a volunteer financial counselor I admit that the lack of logic in all of this makes me cringe. If you didn’t budget for this shopping day at the beginning of the month, if you don’t already have the cash set aside, you have no business being out there! All this, of course, focuses on the practical side of money management. If we’ve learned nothing else from the recent financial crisis, we should have learned that you simply can’t spend more than you have. That’s just common sense. But there’s an even greater principle that we as Christ followers must examine: the principle of managing God’s money.
As followers of Jesus, we have no money of our own. All that we have is provided by God. He blesses us with money and loans us possessions so that we might use these things to bless others and further His kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30). Everything we have is only ours temporarily; all that we have been entrusted with is to be used to serve God. Instead of asking the familiar “What would Jesus do?” question this year, instead start asking “How would Jesus spend?” Every time you pull out your wallet ask yourself if what you are about to buy fills a need or affirms love for someone. Yes, a $300 gift for someone can show them that you care, but so can a $10 gift. Why not purchase a little for those who already have a lot, and spend more on those who have nothing? Are you spending more on gifts for friends and family than you are on the homeless, the widows and the starving? I can pretty much assure you this is not how Jesus would spend. He chose to devote Himself to the outcasts rather than the well to do. The gifts He gave (through healings and miracles) were generally done for the poor and not for the wealthy. We should act in kind.
This is the time of year in Western society where we buy gifts for one another, supposedly in honor of God’s greatest gift to man, His son Jesus. But I don’t see mention of that in any advertisement. I see flat screen televisions, GPS units and video games. I don’t see any items for sale that would further the kingdom of God. I don’t see any of the Black Friday ads announcing how they will feed the homeless or clothe the shivering poor. Yet we will spend and spend, spurred on by the flashy ads and we will not think twice about the disheveled hungry person we might see along our travels. Is your spending in line with that of the kingdom or have you bought into the lies and deceit of Satan? Are you convinced that you need the latest and greatest gadgets or are you content with the greatest gift of all? This is a dangerous and telling time of the year for we who claim to follow Christ. Think twice next time you pull out your wallet. How are you managing the finances God has entrusted to you?