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Consumerism: Do we need to repent?

By Jo Wright | 28 November 2013

Consumerism blog

Yes. It’s that time of the year again! The weeks (now months) during which we are bombarded by the media with images of the ‘perfect Christmas’. As we inevitably give in to pressure, we empty out our already light wallets. Personally, I’m trying to turn a blind eye to it all this Christmas. With our wedding coming up in April, I can’t really stretch to buying extravagant Christmas presents for anyone this time around.

But maybe I’m not the only one cutting back…

According to, shoppers are planning to spend an average of £488 on Christmas this year. That’s 7% down on 2012's figure of £526, according to research from HSBC.

Are many of us feeling the pinch with this current economic climate? Are we tired of being sold the idea that in order to enjoy Christmas, we have to spend a bucket load of money?  The inevitable result is that many get into debt, followed by the January blues and months of trying to pay it all back.

This weekend marks the significant time for retail in the U.S.A. ‘Black Friday’ as it’s known, is when shoppers go crazy over big reductions in stores across the country (‘Walmart massacres’ as described by my American colleague, Charlie). This is followed by a relatively new event called ‘Cyber Monday’ where the same applies for consumers at a range of online shopping sites. This shopping frenzy is known to bring many retailers ‘back into the black’ before the end of the year.

I must hold my hands up and say I’m guilty of having been quite extravagant with Christmas presents in the past (especially for my family), and with the UK seemingly adopting the Cyber Monday craze, it is tempting to spend. I really do get a buzz out of seeing a loved one unwrap something I’ve thoughtfully splashed out on and spent ages planning to get them.

However, do I need to repent of this form of generosity? Wouldn’t my money have gone further by being given to Salvation Army to help the homeless, or to Samaritan’s Purse for their Operation Christmas Child campaign? There are so many options out there to be generous in a different way.

On the flip side of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is Giving Tuesday. This is a campaign in its second year, which advocates a national day of giving. People are encouraged give to support non-profit organisations and the United Nations Foundation is one of the major partners. In its first year, it is reported that some organisations processing donations in the U.S. saw the numbers rise by as much as 50% compared to the previous year.*

Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Does my sacrifice of generosity involve the revelation that my family and friends could probably live without that iTunes voucher or bottle of fancy perfume and that actually, would they be that bothered without it? And does it also involve the realisation that there is a real world out there full of people in need and crying out for someone to help them?

Could my generosity extend to those people instead? Instead of splashing out on presents, could I invite a struggling family for Christmas lunch? Could I volunteer in a soup kitchen for a couple of hours instead of spending five hours trawling the internet for deals on Cyber Monday?

In the end, as they say, actions speak louder than words.  Maybe we could appreciate the loved ones in our lives all year round, without getting caught up in the tangled web of consumerism this Christmas.

In the end, it is what our Lord has told us to do.






Read more like this:

No man is an island

is it time to pension off Pudsey?

Guy Fawkes: consumed by fire


photo used under Creative Commons Licence by CJ Isherwood


bible generous
Posted by Jo Wright

Jo was part of the giving services team at Stewardship. She studied at the London School of Theology. She loves music, travelling and is passionate about ending human trafficking.


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