Rabbinic Wisdom for Christmas Consumerism

Right now many of us are doing our Christmas shopping, and it is easy to focus on new things we wish we could have. We live in a consumer culture that revolves around having more “stuff.” Our status is based on money, and we are expected to dedicate all our time to achieving financial success.

Shop til you drop johnivaraAt Christmas, we are bombarded by messages to bow down to our cultural god of mammon when we should be worshiping the God who cared so little for money that he entered human existence to lay in a watering trough.

This is a good time to reflect on a wonderful saying of the rabbis. They asked the question,

Who is rich?

And gave a simple, but profound answer:

He who is satisfied with what he has.” (Avot 4:1)

Many of us don’t see the amazing prosperity that we have, not just in comparison to poor of the world today, but in comparison to everybody in the world not many years ago!

If you think about it, your own great-grandparents likely had only a few changes of clothes, worked hard to just make ends meet, and had little savings. But you don’t think of them as “impoverished.” That was just the norm back then.

And consider, our homes are more comfort-laden than even the palaces of yesterday’s kings and queens! They hardly dreamed of electric lights and central heat, much less mobile phones and Google. How can we not feel rich in comparison?

If you want to be especially encouraged, watch this 5 minute video, “200 Years that Changed the World.” Hans Rosling shows that most of the world has been greatly blessed in the past century by increases in health, education and income. Before 1830, the life expectancy in the wealthiest country in the world was about 40 years old. Today, even the poorest countries now have average life expectancies greater than 40. That, indeed, is something to be thankful for.

As we celebrate God’s great gift to us this year in Christ, may we seek first his kingdom, rather than worrying about the things we have or don’t have. And may we learn to be content in every circumstance, knowing that God abundantly supplies all our needs.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:11-13


(Image – Johnivara; video – see Gapminder.org for more.)


6 Responses to “Rabbinic Wisdom for Christmas Consumerism”

  1. 1
    Tom|December 17, 2013


  2. 2
    Nceba Mbangula|December 18, 2013

    Hey Lois,

    Thank you so much for your work, articles, and books, they’ve enriched my life and helped deepen my love for Jesus and His teachings.

    Here is a question I’ve always had about “Christmas”.

    How did December 25th come to be celebrated as the day of Yeshua’s birth, and what is the origin of the festival of Christmas?

    Covered in the Dust

    Nceba (from South Africa)

  3. 3
    Lois Tverberg|December 18, 2013

    The tradition of celebrating the birth of our Messiah on December 25 goes back to 336 AD. An even older tradition (from about 200 AD) was to celebrate Epiphany on January 6, which commemorates the visit of the wise men. As far as the actual date, it is unknown, and in my mind, unimportant.

    The secular imagery that is associated with it (St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, etc) is mainly from Europe and only a few centuries old. Some traditions (Yule logs, mistletoe) do come from customs of mid-December pagan celebrations in early Europe that have lost their original meaning.

    Ultimately, I see it as a wonderful thing that much of the planet (even the secular world) has a yearly reminder that God’s salvation for sinners has arrived on earth in Israel’s Messiah.

    Here’s a good article on the subject from the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies called “The Christmas Controversy

    I wrote a post some time back that is also about the subject, called “Standing Stones and Christmas Trees.”

  4. 4
    Kathleen|December 19, 2013

    Hi Lois,
    Excellent!!! Just what I needed to read today.
    Christmas Blessings!

  5. 5
    Barbara Hyland|January 7, 2014

    I have purchased all your wonderful books. I introduced my ladies Bible class to “Hebraic thinking” by using your book” Sitting at the Feet of the Rabbi Jesus”. Excellent. Although Christmas has passed I would like your comments and/or insight into the possibility that the Messiah was not born in Bethlehem. Seems there are some doubts among certain scholars on His birthplace. Any thoughts on this?

  6. 6
    Lois Tverberg|January 8, 2014

    Two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, report that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, even though their accounts of his birth have little else in common. This to me is convincing.

    Is there any ancient evidence that Jesus was born elsewhere, or that Bethlehem is an impossible location for his birth? I’ve never heard of any. So I don’t know why there would be a problem with assuming the reliability of the biblical witness.

    Just because the Bible says something that seems “too good” for proving that Jesus is the Messiah isn’t actually a reason to discard it as truthful. It’s just skepticism for the sake of skepticism.

Leave a Reply