It’s been several weeks now since we started getting hammered with all those Christmas sale flyers, commercials, and pop-up ads from people who have something to sell. They’ve mastered the art of pushing our buttons to get us to feel pressure to spend great amounts of money on gifts for family and friends, and to fuel our own hopes and wishes for what might show up under the tree. Decades of this kind of button-pushing has created expectations in ourselves and our kids that can so easily take our minds off of what’s really to be celebrated at Christmas.
Consider these questions: What is it that your kids are aspiring to? In what trajectory (telos) are they endeavoring to aim their lives?
Those are questions that researcher Alexander Astin has been asking of first-year college students since 1966. After tracking the life-goals of first-year college students, Astin found that in the mid-1960s there were about 45% of college students who rated “being very well off financially” as a very important objective. That figure jumped to 75% by the mid-1980s and stayed rather steady in the years since. When Astin asked those same students about “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” over 85% of the mid-1960s students endorsed that as a goal. By the time we entered the 2000s, the number of students who aspired to that same goal had dropped to half of that number.. Money-seeking goals and meaning-seeking goals have traded places among those transitioning to adulthood, and those goals continue to shift in that same dangerous direction. Too many of our kids are increasingly more interested in accumulating money and stuff, than they are in pursuing meaning and significance.
As Christmas is on all of our minds this month, perhaps we should address these realities in our families with the greatest urgency. . . by first examining who Christmas celebrates, and then looking at what He said about proper priorities.
The great irony of Christmas is that while it is ultimately about the coming of Jesus Christ – the one true Redeemer who saves us from ourselves and all of our idolatrous aspirations – we have turned the season into a celebration centered on those idolatrous aspirations. In other words, we have made it about the very love of stuff that our Savior came to rescue us from.
God cares deeply about our attitudes toward money and wealth. Did you know that more is said in the New Testament about the dangers of the love of money and wealth than about heaven and hell combined? Five times more is said about money than about prayer. And sixteen out of Christ’s thirty-eight parables deal with money! Jesus very pointedly said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matt. 6:24).
C.S. Lewis knew the dangers of seeking significance in stuff rather than finding it in the Savior. He wrote, “Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.” Let’s endeavor to consciously live and teach that reality to our kids this Christmas.