It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and that means most Americans are busy doing what we do best: shopping! With Black Friday come and gone, many are scrambling to buy Christmas gifts.
A quick survey of gifts.com showed that some of the hottest items for 2012 include a yoga meditation bench, a beer-of-the-month club and a combo hat-beard warmer (for Oklahoma City Thunder fans still upset at the James Harden trade, that last gift might be almost as offensive as the other two.)
While the world promotes gifts like these that are wrong or plain silly, Christians are faced each year with the decision of what to buy. While no Baptist would be tempted to give out a beer-of-the-month club membership, there are some popular gifts that may be dangerous in more subtle ways. Here are two that come to mind:
Joel Osteen’s new book: He has been called “America’s pastor” by a leading news publication. The megachurch pastor and best-selling author has a new book out called I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life, which is flying off bookstore shelves this year.
Here is a telling passage: “There have been plenty of times where I’ve thought something negative, and I’m just about to say it, but I’ll catch myself and think, ‘No. I’ll zip it up. I’m not speaking defeat into my future. I’m not speaking failure over my life. I will turn it around and speak favor into my future. I will declare, ‘I’m blessed. I’m strong. I’m healthy. This will be a great year.’ When you do that, you are blessing your future.”
To reinforce his ideas, Osteen quotes Eph. 2:7 (the amplified version). “He said that we would see ‘the unlimited, immeasurable, surpassing greatness of God’s favor.’”
God’s grace is truly limitless, but God does not promise life without struggle. Osteen forgets to mention that the same Apostle Paul who penned the words of Ephesians also lived one of the most persecuted lives after becoming a Christian. In the end, Osteen’s advice is more akin to name-it-and-claim-it Christianity than the true Gospel, and he makes the same mistake that so many prosperity preachers do: promising Heaven too soon, to quote John Piper.
Twilight Movies/Books: While no Christian in their right mind would contemplate giving the “50 Shades of Grey” pornographic novels for Christmas, the Twilight movies and books may find their way under some Christmas trees. Yet Twilight is also destructive, albeit it in subtle ways. If you are not familiar with the introductory plot of the saga, a teenage girl (“Bella”) is in love with a chivalrous suitor (“Edward”) who happens to be a vampire. While Mormon author Stephanie Meyer may be quick to point out that the main characters do not have extramarital sex, the saga perpetuates the false notion that romantic intimacy before marriage can be expected without things escalating. Since the first novel, the plots have taken odd turns that adequate space here does not allow description.
The Twilight saga creates an unrealistic expectation in the minds of women as to how men will act. Further, the novel gets the bad guys and good guys reversed. It pits the parents and the community against the vampire, making the latter the good guy. In all correctly written, classic horror novels, such as Frankenstein, the community is the protagonist while the villain is the antagonist. All of this adds up to a problematic story that is too mature for teens and too alluring for faithful Christians, as writer Stephen Ross has pointed out.
It goes without saying that the Baptist Messenger is not here to draw up your Christmas list. We are here, though, to say that with each gift we give, we should be reminded of God’s greatest gift, His Son, Jesus, Whose blood was shed for sinners like you and me. The more a gift can turn someone’s mind to that truth, the better. So this Christmas, let’s each consider how what we buy for others can point to Him.