My oldest daughter—twenty-six—loves watching those TV shows that take you on a tour of the homes of the rich and famous. She says she’s getting ideas for her future mansion. My fourth child—nineteen--can’t wait to get her first car next month or so. Before she got her own cell phone a year ago, I had to deliver her several times from the nearly fatal dissatisfaction of not having one.
My girls are members of the so-called echo boomers. This is a name given to the offspring of the baby boomers. While watching 60 Minutes recently, I heard some interesting statistics on echo boomers. They make up about 1/3 of our population, and they spend about $170 billion a year on clothes and gadgets.
Their passion for things and fashion has strong roots in the home. We parents tend to heap these on our children. I see middle school-aged children walking around with their own cell phone. When our children make good grades, or graduate from high school or college, we show them we are proud of them by way of money or things—maybe a computer or their own car even. At Christmas we will go to extremes to find the perfect gifts for our children, or we might give them large sums of money to buy them whatever they want.
In our consumer-driven economy one can fall into the trap of believing that life is all about things. Believe me, I know how it feels to have no purchasing power and to live in America. About seven years ago during Christmastime I couldn’t buy anything for our then five children. In fact, had a Christian brother not given me a ham, I don’t even know what we would have had to eat for Christmas dinner. His church had given some things to needy families, and when I stopped by his church he gave me a ham and some of the toys that were let over so I could give them to a needy family who had a young child. It turned out my family was that needy family.
I felt bad for my children. We didn’t want to visit anybody that Christmas because we knew that the kids of the house we visited would ecstatically show our children what all they had gotten for Christmas, and that would only worsen how we were feeling.
I tried explaining to my children that our life is not defined by the things we have or the things we lack (Luke 12:15). Of course, at their ages and during such a gloomy Christmas this biblical truth meant little to them. And though I understood it and--being a pastor at the time—I proclaimed it from the pulpit, when such great lack came to my house it did not feel good. To me it was as if I had failed my children. How I wanted to see smiles on their faces on Christmas day. I felt their pain.
I am sure many Christians wrestle the same kind of emotions when they can’t get the things they want. It’s OK for us to show our human side in this regard. But for Christians, let us make sure that our Christmas is centered around Christ and not things.
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Your message is very true. We have to start at a very early age to plant some truths in our children. At the same time we don't want to deprive them of things that you know will make them happy. How to do this balancing act only God can help. Thanks for sharing.