I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. My grandma taught me better.
When I receive a gift (and I received lots of gifts) for Christmas, I am supposed to smile politely and say “thank you.” It’s even better if I take the time to write out my gratitude in a thank you card. I’m not supposed to be disappointed that the gift I unwrapped isn’t quite what I was hoping for. I’m definitely not supposed to ask for more gifts after the unwrapping and oohing and awing is all done. I’m supposed to feel . . . grateful and satisfied.
And I do. Kind of.
The only way to get filled up and pry our eyes away from all that glitters is to turn toward Jesus.
I had a wonderful Christmas. I received lots of great gifts. But if I’m being totally honest, I still have a craving—a craving for more stuff, more food, more gifts. I appreciate the presents I received, but when the last present was unwrapped a funny feeling crept into my heart. I found myself asking . . . “Is that it? Isn’t there anything else to open?”
I know I’m not the only one to feel this way. Did you know that the day after Christmas is the second biggest shopping day of the year, nearly rivaling Black Friday? We open gobs of gifts, get tons of new stuff, and then we say, “Let’s go shopping!” The return lines on the day after Christmas always amaze me. People will stand in line for hours to return a less than perfect gift in the hopes they can exchange it for something that will satisfy their craving for more. It’s as if we all secretly have a hunch that one more gift will make us feel content.
What’s Really Going on Here?
The presents we give and receive at Christmas time aren’t “bad,” but they can be a little distracting. What’s really happening when I am surrounded by great gifts but secretly desire more? The issue isn’t the quality or quantity of gifts I received, the real problem is my heart.
Here’s some hard-hitting truth about our stuff to help our hearts find firm footing again.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5).
“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions'” (Luke 12:15).
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19–21).
Jesus talked about materialism a lot. (For more of His words on the subject, check out this link. He warned us not to put our hope in money and stuff often because He knew we would struggle here. His action plan is simple but tough—”Focus less on stuff and more on Me.”
New stuff can’t feed our craving. More stuff won’t work either. The only way to get filled up and pry our eyes away from all that glitters is to turn toward Jesus; to focus on Him; to read His Word; to make a conscious decision to be grateful for all He has already given us.
Give It Away
If you’re struggling to shake your craving for more, grab your Bible and read Mark 10:17–31. It’s the story of the rich young ruler, a story you might be familiar with, but one I felt my heart drawn to after the hubbub of Christmas died down.
Jesus was taking a trip when a young man approached him and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus starts a dialogue with the man about following the rules. Of course, following the rules isn’t what gets us into heaven. Jesus is our only ticket in! But Jesus must have known that the rich young man was trying to earn salvation by being good. He was right. The rich young man said he had been following the rules to the letter since his youth.
But pay attention to what happened next . . .
“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him . . .”
Pause right there for just a minute. Did Jesus look at the rich man and feel disgust? Anger? Pity? Nope. Jesus looked at him and loved him.
When Jesus looks at me and my constant craving for more, He loves me too. If you’re wrestling with materialism, you should know He isn’t mad at you. He looks at you with love.
Moving on . . .
“Jesus said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow, me'” (v. 21).
After the rich man went away, Jesus took the opportunity to teach. He said that it is tough for the rich to get into heaven. Why? Is there an income limit for those who get in? Are people with lots of stuff banished from God’s kingdom? No way!
It’s not the money in our bank account or the amount of iStuff in our bedrooms that decides whether or not we get into heaven. But for the rich young ruler and for the rest of us, money has a way of becoming our functional god. We look to money or things to satisfy us, to give us purpose, to make us happy. What was the “one thing” the rich young ruler was missing? The radical truth that Jesus, not money, was what mattered most.
Jesus commanded the rich young ruler to give away his possessions, not because the possessions themselves were evil, but because the man needed to get his focus off of himself and on to others.
His advice unlocks the secret to curing our own craving for more. How do we stop the ache fore more? It’s simple, really . . .
We give it away.
You don’t have to give away your new Christmas gifts. (That might really make grandma mad.) But you can damper your craving for more by shifting your focus toward God first and others second. Can you give away some of your precious Christmas break by sleeping less and praying more? Can you give away some items you don’t need any more to someone who didn’t receive much for Christmas? Can you give away attention? Give away your talents? Give away your money?
The story of the rich young ruler doesn’t have a happy ending. In fact, the Bible says that he left Jesus disheartened and sorrowful. He just couldn’t pry his eyes away from his stuff. We are left to assume that he couldn’t bear to give it away. He probably lived his life with the craving I felt after Christmas . . “If I can just get a little more, then I will be happy.” But that is a hamster wheel I don’t want to be on.
So I am following Jesus’ advice and focusing on Him in the wake of Christmas. What’s more, I am looking for every opportunity to give something away to shift the ache in my heart.
Will you join me?
What can you give away in the days ahead to quiet the craving for more?