Money Is Not the Measure

Advent Week 2, Dec 13, 2013
Read Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 55:1-2, Hebrews 12:12-13

It is so easy to get caught up in cultural expectations!  How many of the following gift-giving “rules” do you inadvertently follow at Christmas?  Are you modeling this behavior for your children and thus teaching them to be similarly obligated to these rules?

The Ten Hidden Gift-Giving Rules

  1. Give a gift to everyone you expect to get one from.

  2. If someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, reciprocate that year…

  3. When you add a name to your gift list, give that person a gift every year thereafter.

  4. The amount of money you spend on a gift determines how much you care about the recipient.

  5. Gifts exchanged between adults should be roughly equal in value.

  6. The presents you give someone should be fairly consistent in value over the years.

  7. If you give a gift to a person in one category (for example, a co-worker or neighbor), give a gift to everyone in that category, and these gifts should be similar in value.

  8. Women should give gifts to their close women friends.

  9. Men should not give gifts to their male friends — unless those gifts are alcoholic beverages.

  10. Whenever the above rules cause you any difficulty, remedy the situation by buying more gifts.

(– From Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli, (c) 1991)

Before God can free us of our unwitting compliance with our society’s commercialism, we have to be able to recognize it, recognize our involvement in it, and recognize our servitude to it.  Perhaps this will be the year that you become aware of your own values and of the ways that you are — and the ways that you are not — able to live out your values at your job and with your family and neighbors, and friends.

Because so many of us are always trying to obey at least some of these “ten hidden rules,” you may find yourself locked into them again this year.  Part of your witness, part of your calling to “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” and to “prepare the way for the people” may be to bring up the subject with your co-workers or your family or neighbors or friends and agree together this year to “do it differently” next year.  Someone has to be the first to suggest it — and remember that those others in your circle of gift-giving are also caught up in the “ten hidden rules!”  Your witness might free them as well as yourself!

Meditation: Examine the list you made earlier this week:

  • Put a $ beside each item or event that costs more than $5 and $$ beside each one  that costs more than $10.
  • How many of the items on your list fall into that category?  What does that tell you about your priorities?
  • Whom do you think  you might offend if you spent less? (Perhaps that person would be relieved!)
  • Now put a cross beside each item on the list that helps or benefits someone who  needs help

About Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith has 20 years’ experience in technical writing and management in software companies. She also has more than 20 years in Christian ministry as an educator, course designer, retreat leader, spiritual director, pastor, and coach. A United Methodist Deacon, Smith has her M.Div. from Boston University. She is a graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance, and is certified in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leadership from Boston College.
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2 Responses to Money Is Not the Measure

  1. frank says:

    It’s hard not to to fall into the trap that the list identifies. It starts once you start making that list. I found it difficult to decide who will be getting gifts in my extended family as the numbers have increased over the years and the meaningful amount of cash needed has gone up due to inflation but the income has not necessarily followed. And how to be fair with my gifts so that no one is slighted. Where do you draw that line.
    While the best gift that we can give our loved ones is our loving presence, it is difficult if there is distance involved.
    Perhaps we should keep in mind that our “gift giving” of ourselves should go on year around or 24/7 as stated in the new nomenclature.

  2. Frank Ober says:

    This is well written and timely. I see myself and many others trapped in this conundrum of gift giving. How to make it fair and recognize everybody we think deserves a gift without slighting anyone else… Frank

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