"But godliness with contentment is great gain." --1 Timothy 6:6 NIV
When I was a teenager, I got a Christmas present from my parents that was really incredible. It was a luggage set that I would later take on family vacations and mission trips. It was exactly what I needed. And though I got other more interesting and exciting things that year, those suitcases were the biggest, most expensive item. Honestly, I was disappointed and ungrateful. Why? Because I'm greedy.
That's one of those Christmas memories that haunts me sometimes now that I'm a parent. I've seen (and fear seeing) the same struggle in my kids. But what can we do about our greed? How do we cultivate contentment in ourselves and our kids in the midst of such a consumer culture? I haven't got this figured out, but here are two simple practices I'm embracing this holiday season.
1. Be honest about your greed. Frankly, greed isn't one of those sins we confess very often. When I sit with my accountability partner, I'm careful to confess how I've struggled with lust or anger. But then I'll find myself saying something like, "Have you seen the new iPhone?" The fact is that I struggle with greed whether or not I admit it. I covet the next guy's influence and position. I see unfinished home improvement projects and I start lusting for that better house or nicer neighborhood. I struggle with greed when I find myself looking at the latest upgrade or browsing through clothes I can't afford. I'm greedy, and my first step in fighting greed is to confess it... to my wife, before my kids, and to my friend who holds me accountable.
2. Practice thanksgiving. Practicing thanksgiving. Here is one practice Megan led our family in during the month of November. Every time we sat down to eat dinner together as a family, we asked our children to say one thing they are thankful for. Then we thanked God for each of those things along with our meal. You may also consider taking a few minutes this week to write thank you notes before you give gifts. Writing thank you notes before Christmas helps cultivate gratitude for the friendship, character, and love you've seen in others and not just the gifts they've given you.
3. Give. If you are not giving to your local church, begin during the holidays. If you already give regularly, you might consider setting aside a regular part of your monthly income over the next year in a benevolence account for missionaries, the poor, and friends who are in need. One way to fight greed is to scheme about ways to practice generosity. In Prepare Him Room, Marty Machowski suggests some practical ways to make regular holiday traditions more outward. He suggests taking your family out to look at Christmas lights, voting on the best neighborhood display, then going back on another night to give that neighbor Christmas cookies.
What practices help you fight against greed? How are you scheming to cultivate generosity in your family?