During this time when we pause to give thanks in the USA, I take this Scripture seriously:
In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
But, the truth is, gratitude is only some of what is stirring in my heart.
I am also restless and longing for greater peace and justice for God’s people. Sometimes this causes there to be layers of sorrow, judgement, disturbance, discouragement, disappointment and anger too — layers that I fear might be thicker than the gratitude that I feel.
As many people begin their holiday shopping, it’s especially tough for me to not become angry about the consumerism that our culture force feeds us. People are excited about sales, about shopping and buying more stuff. What is the craze about? Is it about generosity? Or, is it about greed and getting new stuff, just so we can throw out the old?
Whatever the case may be, let’s not throw out our consciousness that Earth is hurting and our consumption is causing serious destruction. Let us heed this warning:
The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce, which is for profit rather than for sustainability. So long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen. This is a hard fact to confront. But averting our eyes from a seemingly intractable problem does not make it any less a problem. It should be stated plainly: It’s capitalism that is at fault.
Christians, we are not here to cause more pain and suffering. We must attempt not to contribute to the systemic problems. Even when it’s easier to avoid the heartache of truth, we must step out of our comfort zones and be converted.
Doing so will help move society toward solutions. It is time for us to work for a more sustainable, equitable and just society, a world that builds up the reign of God. This is how we store up treasures in heaven!
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
Although this can become a time when a lot of people are crazily shopping and consuming, this is also a wonderful season of generosity, community, sharing and celebrating the goodness of God! This is what builds up God’s reign! This is what we are made to promote!
So, what’s a Christian to do? How can we resist the craze of consumerism and be countercultural peacemakers?
Here are some ideas:
- Resist Black Friday: Celebrate Buy Nothing Day instead. Consider joining in on a protest, fast, or at least send a message of support to those who protest for just wages.
- Participate in #GivingTuesday. Thousands of nonprofit organizations and charities are dependent on your contributions to keep open and working at their mission. My community has been challenged with a donation dollar match to help with Child Advocacy Initiatives. You can help us meet our goal to raise $4,000 on Tuesday, Nov. 28th.
- Collect donations for your local homeless shelter, transitional living program or food shelf. Want to give things that they really need? Then call them up and ask what that is! Most likely money is one of the greatest needs.
- Honor children and elders: Mentor young ones and teach them about generosity. Help meet the needs of those who are vulnerable. Visit elders who are homebound and lonely. If anyone asks me what I want for Christmas I’m ready to tell them that I want donations to Tubman House for Christmas.
- Pray for peace: This includes asking God how you are needed to be peacemaker.
- Connect to the tough parts in the Christmas story: Advocate for immigration reform and stand up for anyone who is oppressed by violence and injustice.
- Spread the Love: Tell young people that they matter and you care about them. Write letters and cards. Be intentional about how you spend time with others.
- Getting creative about how you give presents: Re-gift. Buy things at thrift stores. Making DIY crafts out of stuff you have around home. Utilize some of the resources from “Buy Nothing Christmas” and bake goodies to share.
On this day of true thanksgiving, let us give God all that is on our hearts! And, let us make a plan for how we will express our gratitude through our countercultural, generous living. Amen!
This blog post is adapted from the November 25, 2011 blog post entitled “thanks for giving, not buying” and the November 27, 2013 blog post entitled “Craving a countercultural Christmas.”