A Wise Christmas Perspective
By Ken Walker-
Andy Stanley, whose very name almost guarantees a bestseller, is releasing his newest book Dec. 31. How to Be Rich is subtitled, “It’s Not What You Have, It’s What You Do With What You Have.”
The book is based on sermons that emphasized cultivating a life of generosity as the secret to true wealth. This message made an impact: Stanley’s church members gave more than $5 million and volunteered 34,000 hours to Atlanta-area charities.
For an additional perspective—one that you can purchase before Christmas—I heartily recommend Randy Alcorn’s classic, Money, Possessions and Eternity. First released in 1988, Tyndale House published an updated version in 2003.
A Bearing on Eternity
Even though a decade has passed since then, the book remains as timely as ever. It serves as the perfect anecdote to the materialism that casts a long shadow at this time of year.
As Alcorn points out, what we do with our money loudly affirms whether we belong to the kingdom of light or the kingdom of darkness, as well as affecting the future.
“What I do today has tremendous bearing on eternity,” Alcorn says. “Indeed, it is the stuff of which eternity is made. The everyday choices I make regarding money and possessions are of eternal consequence.”
The Ill of “Affluenza”
Noting that our nation drinks from the well of materialism, Alcorn cites “Affluenza,” a 1997 special produced by a PBS station in Oregon. The station later produced a sequel, “Escape from Affluenza.” Some of the statistics it cited—which have likely not improved:
- The average American shops six hours a week but only spends forty minutes playing with his or her children.
- By age 20, the average TV viewer has seen one million commercials.
- More Americans recently declared bankruptcy than graduated from college.
- Money plays a key role in 90 percent of divorce cases.
Alcorn points out that materialism begins with our beliefs. Not just what we say but the philosophy of life by which we actually live. So even though many Christians would deny believing in materialism’s philosophical underpinnings, they can still be preoccupied with things.
“Materialism is first and foremost a matter of the heart,” Alcorn writes. “God created us to love people and use things, but materialists love things and use people…
“We have every reason to be alarmed about our country’s materialism but no reason to be surprised by it. We cannot reject the Creator and his truth without rejecting the respect for human dignity that naturally flows from it.”
The Irony of Christmas
It is highly ironic that the holiday established years ago to honor the birth of God’s Son has morphed into a fount of commercialism. Such activity represents the very antithesis of what Jesus warned against in Luke 12:15: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
And, as Alcorn points out, James 1:9-12 warns that those who are rich in this world will often be poor in the world to come, while those who are poor will often be rich in the next.
He also comments that seeking fulfillment in such things as money, houses, cars, boats or world travel can leave us as bound up by materialism as drug addicts who think that they can find hope in getting more of the same.
“Meanwhile, the voice of God—unheard amid the clamor of our possessions—is telling us that even if materialism did bring happiness in this life, which it clearly does not, it would leave us woefully unprepared for the next life,” Alcorn says.
There are far more nuggets in this book than I can recap in this brief space. Yet if you are hoping that having enough “stuff” under the Christmas tree will magically fulfill, forget it. The child whose birth we celebrate Dec. 25 is the only One who can bring what you seek.