Something mysterious happens to items in colorfully wrapped boxes and then placed under a tree full of lights. After a short incubation period these items, called presents, become possessions when they are removed.
Suddenly, all of the challenging things your remember from last Christmas, but over the course of 364 days have somehow managed to forget, are back. Presents have become possessions.
Christ had an encounter with a brother who was also concerned that his sibling was not being fair. He wanted Jesus to settle an inheritance dispute. No doubt, this issue was critically important to the offended brother. He must have been taken aback to see his desire for fairness and justice be exposed for what it really was – greed. Christ ignores the who, what, where, when of the situation and goes straight to the heart. He tells this man that he is concerned about the wrong things. Luke records what Jesus said:
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:13-15
Greedy children become greedy adults. It is possible to become sophisticated in the way we pursue greed, as was the case with the man in the narrative. But greed is still greed. Christ tells this man that the accumulation of things is not what life is about. Material things do not last.
Don’t misunderstand. I think giving gifts to your loved ones and your children is a wonderful thing to do. Expressing love through gift-giving can be special. But, we must not miss the warning Christ gives to this justice-conscious man. Life does not consist in the abundance of things.
Whether there are many presents or just a few, greed is still a danger. Greed is something to guard against. If you are able to teach your children that life does not consist in the abundance of presents, you will have given them a precious gift. Things that are the most valuable in life cannot be wrapped and placed in a box.
Life that is truly life consists in the abundance of love for God and for each other!