The Cure for I-Want-Itis

Sometimes my view of the baby in the manger is blocked by the pile of presents under the tree. Even though I know that Jesus is the true gift of Christmas, it’s hard to make my eyes focus on Him when all the stuff I’ve been hoping for is just waiting to be unwrapped.

I’ve yet to unwrap a Christmas gift that can give me the gifts only Jesus can.

Every year, about mid-November, I come down with a bad case of I-want-itis. I get infected through contact with constant Christmas advertising and shopping. Plus, the plain truth is I’m a stinkin’ sinner—much more prone to crave the passing baubles of this world than the eternal treasures that can only be found in Christ. But I’ve yet to unwrap a Christmas gift that can give me the gifts only Jesus can:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control (Gal. 5:22–23).

And the hard truth is the stuff of Christmas doesn’t make us feel good for long. (Can you even name one gift you got last year? Yeah, me neither.)

So how can we vaccinate ourselves against the I-want-itis? Here are three ideas.

1. Call the craving what it is.

That craving we all get this time a year has a name. The Bible calls it covetousness, and it simply means to want what we don’t have. I know we’ve normalized coveting. We make lists about the things we desire. We wait with eager expectation for the objects we crave to go on sale. But the Bible proposes a different, more radical approach. In Exodus 20:17, we see that our craving for stuff that is not ours is mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

I know you likely aren’t eyeing your neighbor’s house, servant, or oxen this Christmas season, but read it again. Pay attention to the last six words . . .

“or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

If you’re craving something someone else has (even if it’s on a mannequin in your favorite store), you’re coveting and breaking the tenth commandment.

Jesus asks us to actively fight against this urge.

And he 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).

It’s a hard first step (and not very merry or bright!) to admit that our cravings for more stuff, different stuff, or someone else’s stuff are sinful, but that is the line the Bible draws.

In this, as in all areas of the Christian life, we need God’s help. Why not take a minute right now and ask the Lord to help you see your covetousness and repent of it?

2. Give it away.

God’s Word says that all of the commandments, (including #10, which we just covered) can be summed up in a certain call to action.

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Rom. 13:9).

Another way of saying “Do not murder” is “Love your neighbor.”
Another way of saying “Do not steal” is “Love your neighbor.”
Another way of saying “Don’t get caught up in craving stuff this Christmas” is “Love your neighbor.”

Loving other people has the miraculous effect of peeling our eyes off ourselves.

Loving other people has the miraculous effect of peeling our eyes off ourselves. I’ve learned that I can stop the parade of gifts that I want from marching through my head by being over-the-top generous toward others during this season.

What might happen if you asked your parents not to get you anything for Christmas this year but instead asked for cash to donate toward World Vision?

What if your entire family agreed to downsize the pile under the tree in order to adopt a local family with no gifts under theirs?

What if instead of running to the mall with your Christmas cash, you gave it all away?

I’d love to find out. Wouldn’t you?

3. Say “thank you.” A lot.

Gratitude is a gift we can all give away.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16–18).

The Bible doesn’t mention God’s plan for you to have the latest and greatest everything; however, it does mention God’s desire for you to give thanks in all circumstances.

Though small, the two little words “thank you” shift our eyes off the gift on to the gift giver. This applies to your parents, your siblings, and Great Aunt Sue, but it also applies to the Giver of the best gifts of all.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).

I find that the more I say, “Thank You, Jesus,” the less my heart screams, “Gimme, Jesus.” I have a hunch that if we saw every gift we received during this season—every meal shared, every grandparent hugged, every cup of hot cocoa sipped—as a gift from Jesus, that I-want-itis might begin to lose its grip.

The Best Gift

Better than new clothes, new jewelry, and new gadgets, the gospel is the best gift of all.

Our sinful hearts will always be drawn to lesser things, it’s why Jesus needed to come on that first Christmas morning to save us from our sin. But His birth preceded His death and resurrection, so we could be free from the sin “which clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1).

Better than new clothes, new jewelry, and new gadgets, the gospel is the best gift of all.

Jesus, thank You for giving us good gifts. Help us to crave You more and stuff less. Amen.

About Author

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Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

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