The Stuff and Soul Tension of Christmas
By The Steward's Journey
This week it is our privilege and joy to turn the blog over to Dr. Wes Willmer, author of Stuff and Soul: Mastering the Critical Connection. With the Christmas season beginning, it’s important we understand how to deal with the tension of earthly stuff and our eternal souls.
Ready or not, Christmas displays are going up and the stores and advertisements are coming after your spending. Are you ready to deal with the tension of stuff and soul this Christmas? How are you going to survive the press of shopping, shipping, family gatherings and gift returns etc.? Are these activities going to push aside the maturing of your soul? For most of us, our Christmas celebrations often end up being dominated by stuff, as we become “stuffocated”! Often at this time of year, stuff becomes a greater priority over the maturing of our soul. As theologian John Stott reminds us, “a preoccupation with material things can smother our spiritual life.” How are you going to deal with the challenge of what priority you place on temporal stuff verses your eternal soul this Christmas? How are you going to place a priority on your eternal soul over the lure of stuff? Here are five questions for you to answer to help you sort out this tension and come to terms with the critical connection between stuff and soul:
- What are some specific steps you can take to weed out the distractions of stuff in your life this Christmas?
- Are you willing to pray that God will help you overcome the temptation of stuff and focus more on the maturing of your soul?
- How might you change your actions to be more reflective of the character of God as owner and provider of everything?
- What are some specific activities you can focus on to improve the obedience and health of your soul as a steward this Christmas?
- What new spiritual practices might you add to your life to help you become generous as Christ is generous?
Of course, it is not bad to get and give gifts at Christmas. In fact, Christmas is one of the few times where the economy of the kingdom, the economy of giving, begins to take root in our lives. When we give gifts, we honor God’s gift of His Son and we represent the wise men who gave gifts to Jesus by giving gifts to Jesus in one another— “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).
But like all creation, gift giving is tragically subject to futility (Rom. 8:20). Present time around the Christmas tree can subtly shift from being a representation and celebration of the gift of God’s Son into a ceremony of “unveil the idol” if we are not careful. This happens whenever our Christmas gifts take on a life of their own, divorced from the ultimate Giver.
This wrong attitude of divorcing gift and Giver is modeled in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32. The prodigal son wanted to use his inheritance apart from his father, and his older brother wanted a party with his friends without thought for his father. But the father explains to his son, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:31). Both sons wanted what was already theirs in relationship with their father, but they wanted the gifts apart from the giver. This was where they went wrong.
The father’s gifts are good and should be desired, as long as the sons seek them in relationship to him. The gifts which the father gives to his prodigal son are soon dispersed once he leaves home. They vanish by the son’s reckless living and a famine in the land (vv. 13–14). As soon as the prodigal returns, however, the father’s gifts are waiting for him—a robe is put on his shoulders and a ring on his finger and the fatted calf killed for a feast (vv. 22–23). In the parable, it’s the father’s delight to give his sons good things, and it’s the same with our Father, but the gift only has its being, is only a good gift, when it is experienced in relationship with the One who gave us everything.
In short, God really does care about how we celebrate Christmas, how we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, who “emptied himself” in obedience to the Father (Phil. 2:7). As we approach the holiday season, let us seek to “have this mind” amongst ourselves (Phil. 2:5) and honor the Giver by wisely stewarding the new gifts we’ve received this Christmas for His honor and glory.
By: Dr. Wes Willmer
To learn more about the connection between your earthly stuff and your eternal soul, order your copy of Stuff and Soul: Mastering the Critical Connection today at Kingdom Life Publishing.