In case you haven’t noticed the bling, the Christmas shopping season is upon us again.
With pressure on family budgets, Christmas could well be on the cards in more ways than one. This will no doubt contribute to a national day of gloom in January when the statements come through.
Average household consumer credit debt in Britain is now close to 30% of income. For some it is much more – a frightening reality which traps people in despair and a life driven by the need for money. Breaking free from debt really matters.
I’m not talking about those whose life situations put them on, or even below, the breadline, with agonizing decisions to make every day. Such people need our support and the help and advice of excellent charities like Christians Against Poverty. No, I’m talking about the majority of us who are in a position to make some simpler choices about what we spend.
My phone battery is not what it was, but to change my mobile I would have to splash out or commit to a new contract. I want a new one, but I don’t really need it. I would love to give my children and grandchildren some big presents, but if I’m honest they don’t need them either. The pressure is coming from the advertising that tells me ‘I am what I have’, and, truth be told, from my own inward desires.
We do, however, have a spiritual weapon to resist the pressure of our culture of materialism and consumer debt. It’s called contentment. The apostle Paul made it clear that he had ‘learned the secret of being content in any and every situation’ (Philippians 4:12). This may well be the battle to be fought in many a heart and mind in the lead up to Christmas. If we can learn to be content with less ‘stuff’, we will discover more freedom and more capacity to help others.
Far be it from me to stifle generosity – especially as giving can be a language of love. But Scripture also says that ‘if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have’ (2 Corinthians 8:12). In the midst of our giving, let’s hold on to the freedom of a high contentment, low debt lifestyle.
‘Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another’ (Romans 13:8).
Paul is a mentor, author and speaker and chairs the Board of LICC.