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Christmas Guilt

• Greg Boyd

As Kingdom people, we always want to be aware of the dangers of consumerism and irresponsible spending. However, if we take on too much responsibility for fixing the world we can fall into guilt and become judgmental. Jesus modeled a balance between responsibility to those who are less fortunate, and the freedom we have to celebrate and share the good things that God has given us.

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In recent sermons, we have been spending a considerable amount of time confronting the predominant pattern in the American culture that is often labeled as consumerism. When talking about this issue, people process it in many different ways. Some react to the issues around consumerism and the ways their lives are impacted by it with guilt. They even raise questions like:

  • Do you ever feel guilty about being an American?
  • Why should we celebrate Christmas at all?

The reaction of guilt can create a perpetual spiraling process that is hard to stop. One can even go as far as to ask: “Why spend money on anything when others are dying?” It leads people to question why they were privileged to be born into one situation when others go to sleep hungry every night. And the only way that the guilt will ever be satisfied is if you become one of those people who lack any economic privilege.

It can also lead to a judgmental spirit in that guilt can cause a person to be critical about everything that is American or judges others who spend their money in ways that they deem unnecessary. People who give up things out of guilt often become the judgers of others who don’t do as they do.

When we consider how Jesus lived while he was on earth, we see a different approach than that of guilt. In John 12, Mary pours expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and people condemned him for letting her do this because they thought that it could be used for the poor. Jesus responded with “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. In John 2, Jesus was at a wedding party and he turned water into wine. Then in the verses quoted above Paul says that all things are “for our enjoyment.”

If Jesus is the manifestation of God’s Kingdom, then part of God’s reign includes extravagance, weddings, wine, and parties. We must learn to celebrate life and the abundance of the Kingdom. We need to learn to live in balance between the Kingdom abundance and Kingdom generosity.

Therefore, we must learn to operate out of obedience and give of our moneys accordingly. We cannot take on more than what God leads us to do. We have to learn to leave the rest to God and enjoy what he allows us to enjoy, but without guilt.

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Topics: Generosity, Guilt, Judgment, Money


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Focus Scripture:

  • I Timothy 6: 17-18

    Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

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