I recently read that Holiday shoppers will spend an average of $1,044 on gifts this year, up nearly 92% from 2009. As a nation, that translates into several billion dollars. There is no denying that Americans spend a lot of money during the Christmas Season. So how am I supposed to respond to this as a Christian or a pastor? I appreciate what Doug Wilson recently wrote about a right orientation toward Christmas and gifts. Conversely, a normal knee-jerk response for many evangelicals is to rage against the idols of consumerism and demonize all things Santa. Sadly, the children are left confused and Christians are dismissed as uptight penny-pinchers competing for piety points by giving their Christmas money to more “worthy” causes.
As a pastor, I don’t know if I am concerned about my kids learning about materialism from the world as much as I am about them learning it from a bad church. I ask the question somewhat jokingly, but I do find it curious how many pastors preach money-focused sermon series during the holidays. Now, I understand the importance of preaching “generous” giving as a response to the gospel all the time. I also understand the pragmatic strategy behind the timeliness of such sermons during the holidays. And I understand the need to challenge people to love their neighbor in material terms to compete with the natural inclinations of men’s hearts towards greed. But I also recognize that the pulpit doesn’t protect someone from sin, and churches can cover their sinful motivations with gospel-centered wrapping paper.
Simply stated, I hope the message they think they’re preaching is actually being received how they think it is. This is not to say pastors should avoid talking about money during the Christmas Season–this is one of the most powerful idols we wrongly worship. It is to admit that, historically, the church (all mankind) has had a few little problems with money. People give during the “season” for all kinds of reasons–good and bad (some just because it is the end of Tax season). So call people to give, but let pastors never cease to over-emphasize giving as a response our acceptance by God and His people and not as a means to buy either.