Christmas Gifting and Giving
About the Guest
- How do you decide how much to buy, or spend on, your kids at Christmas? Try the 4 gift rule! https://www.facebook.com/familylifeministry/photos/a.453684506248/10156389075751249/?type=3&theater
- Barbara Rainey recalls how she and her husband, Dennis Rainey, prompted their own children to be thankful by initiating mealtime prayers, learning Scripture songs, and writing thank you notes to those who had blessed them. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/the-season-of-gratitude/
- Randy Alcorn talks about the benefits of being a cheerful giver. https://www.familylife.com/podcast/series/were-in-the-money-now-what/
- Check out all that's available on the FamilyLife Podcast Network. https://www.familylife.com/familylife-podcast-network/
- Learn more about becoming a Legacy Partner, a monthly supporter of FamilyLife. https://www.familylife.com/legacy
To help you get ready for gift giving-and charitable giving-this Christmas, Barbara Rainey, Randy Alcorn, Steve Moore, and some of the Raineys’ adult children join us.
Michelle: When I say the word, “addiction,” there may be some negative feelings that you have; but according to Randy Alcorn, that might not always be the case.
Randy: Giving is an addictive behavior; it’s a very positive addiction. It’s one that you just love; you take pleasure in. Once you get the taste of giving, you know, it’s hard to go back.
Michelle: On this edition of FamilyLife This Week, we’re going to help you get addicted to giving, right now at Christmas, and all year round. Stay tuned.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. That addictive behavior in giving—that’s a pretty provocative thought; isn’t it? Well, we’re going to talk to Randy Alcorn about that; but on the flip side of giving is, “Well, how are we going to pay for this?!” I brought my good friend, Steve Moore, in to talk to us about setting up a budget for giving and for Christmas gifting. That’s coming up a little bit later.
But first, let’s talk about Christmas. I don’t know about you, but my tree is already up. In fact, I blew a fuse getting all of those lights on the tree. Christmas, for me, is like snowflakes, which is like catnip for me! I don’t think I’m the only one. In fact, Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s daughter, Rebecca—she is exactly the same way as me—addicted to Christmas. This brings me to a famous Rainey family legend about a Christmas morning that went wrong.
[Previous FamilyLife Today®Interview]
Rebecca: [Laughter] Oh, my goodness!—Christmas mishaps! Yes, you know, there are always Christmas mishaps, I think. One year—I will be made fun of [about] this for my life, because I am more of the emotional person in the family—out of all the kids, I tend to be more emotional. I love doing gifts, and so does Ashley and a few other people. We are like, “Can’t we just do a few gifts this year?” I mentioned off-hand: “I’d really like a hairdryer. I just really need a new one; mine’s broken.”
Ashley: So we all conspired to get her six hairdryers.
Ben: I don’t remember if it was we were going to gang up on Rebecca, in a funny kind of way; apparently, the joke was lost on her for some reason or another; I don’t really remember why that was.
Ashley: Who was the instigator in it? You know, I’m not really sure. You know, it could have even been my father.
Rebecca: Samuel was totally the instigator!—are you kidding me?!
Samuel: That was kind of my role in the family—was to be the jokester that kind of picked on everybody. My younger sister, Rebecca, wanted a hairdryer for Christmas. Kind of being the prankster that I was, I decided to get everybody in the family to get her a hairdryer, so we bought her six of the exact same hairdryers.
Rebecca: I think part of what bothered me was that everyone else was in on it and thought it was so hilarious.
Ashley: I would like to say Rebecca has matured now, as a mother, and she’s over it.
Ben: There’s still scars there! I suppose that’s something we could drudge up at the next Thanksgiving family reunion.
Laura: She mentioned all she wanted for Christmas was a hairdryer. So—
Rebecca: So I opened up my first gift, and it is a hairdryer.
Laura: She opened it; she was so excited.
Rebecca: I was so excited! I know who it was from, but I’m not going to say. So then, I get a second gift, and I open it up; and it’s another hairdryer, but this one is a travel hairdryer; and the travel one was smaller, so it was perfect to fit in my bag. I’m saying all of this to everyone: “It’s great! Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!”
Well, by the fourth one, I was like, “Please say it isn’t!” You know what I mean?—like, “Please tell me it’s not another hairdryer!” And it was.
Laura: She mentioned all she wanted for Christmas was a hairdryer.
Ben: Apparently, the joke was lost on her for some reason or another.
Ashley: I would like to say Rebecca has matured now, but I think she’s probably over it and has moved on.
Rebecca: By the fourth one, I’m starting to get my feelings hurt because, now, I have four hairdryers; and people are starting to laugh. I definitely start crying, because I feel like this is just not funny to me: “This is just not funny.” The more that I cried, the more that they laughed at me even harder.
You know what? At that moment, as everyone was laughing at me, and I was sitting there crying, I was just sitting there, feeling like I am just this caged bird in this family; and I just want out: “I just want out!” For the last 15 years, I have just been like wanting out of this ridiculous joke. It has been like every family time we get together, everyone/someone brings it up and just thinks it’s so hilarious; and it just isn’t!
Michelle: Oh, Rebecca! That’s got to be the worst Christmas nightmare ever! I just don’t understand how you survived it, or how you could talk about it on national radio. Oh, wait! Was there another motive?
[Previous FamilyLife Today Interview]
Rebecca: I know that everyone was in on this joke, but the one person who really instigated the whole thing was Samuel. So Samuel—you, my friend—you have been stung on national radio. [Laughter]
Bob: He’s exposed as the culprit of the great hairdryer conspiracy! [Laughter]
Dennis: He can take it! He’s got broad shoulders.
Barbara: Oh, yes.
Bob: But here she is crying on Christmas Day?!
Barbara: She was! Then I started feeling terrible, because I was in on it too. I thought it would be kind of fun. But when she started crying, I just thought: “Oh, my gosh! We really have made a mistake.” I felt terrible for her.
Dennis: We really were not counting on our daughter beginning to cry. I mean, she really didn’t get it; you know, she really didn’t get it. She was in the moment, and she thought everybody had just made a big mistake in buying these things.
Barbara: And she thought that was all she was getting, and it was just too much to handle. [Laughter] Bless her heart!
Bob: Yes; she did have—there were a few other presents, over on the side, that you had—
Barbara: Oh, yes, there were; but she didn’t know that at the time. Bless her heart!—she really thought that’s all we had done.
Michelle: Oh, poor Rebecca. Putting myself in her shoes, that would have been a hard Christmas morning to come back from.
Even though there are hard Christmas mornings—we’ve probably all dealt with them—not every Christmas morning is that hard. In fact, there are a lot of Christmas mornings that have a lot of joy in them; but the hard ones—that’s extra-hard to do those nice things, like say, “Thank you,” or write that thank-you note.
For Barbara Rainey, one of the values in their household is writing thank-you notes. It is a trait that she instilled in her children; and she’s enjoying receiving thank-you notes from her grandchildren, which means her children passed that on to them. Not long ago, Barbara talked with Dennis and Bob about the importance of being appreciated.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Interview]
Barbara: Parents—moms and dads, but especially moms—give their lives for their kids. We’re just naturally sacrificial: denying ourselves, serving our kids, getting up in the middle of the night—all of that stuff. And so I think there is a sense in which I wished for a little bit of appreciation. But as I thought about it, it’s not just because I wanted to be thanked—although that was a part of it—but it was more because I wanted them to recognize that the reason I was doing everything that I was doing for them was because I loved them so much. I wasn’t doing it out of duty. I did what I did for my children because I desperately loved them, and I wanted them to know that I loved them.
Their recognizing the things that I did would have been a way for me to understand that they got it. I also wanted them to be thankful because I knew how important it was for them to have an attitude that accepted what came into their lives from the hand of God. That has to be trained in our kids.
As we’ve said earlier, being grateful is not natural to any of us, and so learning to say, “Thanks,”—to be grateful/to express that—that was a really big thing for me—was to teach our kids to say, “Thank you,” whenever they were given something, or helped, or served. There were plenty of times when our kids said, “Ah, thanks!” [Laughter] Or they said it, and you could tell it wasn’t really heartfelt; but it just doesn’t matter, because it’s the training that matters. Over a long time, they will eventually get it.
One of the other things that I was insistent on with my kids is that they write thank-you notes to their grandparents at Christmas, after they got a Christmas gift; or on their birthdays after they got something for their birthday; because I wanted them, again, to learn to express gratitude and thanks to the people who gave them something.
It’s interesting to see now that my kids/our kids, as adults, are training their children to write thank-you notes.
Barbara: I love getting these little thank-you notes from our grandkids in the mail: “Thank you, Mimi and Papa, for the present you sent,”—because I know that they [her children] caught that. They got it, even though they didn’t always enjoy doing it—they complained because I made them write thank you notes—but now, they’re doing it with their children.
Michelle: That was Barbara Rainey, reminding us of the value of appreciation and gratitude for what we’ve received. There’s huge value in the “Thank you.” Think how you feel when you spend time shopping or, even, making a gift for someone. If it’s the perfect gift, you’re just as excited about it as the recipient; and you kind of want to be thanked or, at least, acknowledged; right?—even if it is a hairdryer.
Hey! We’re going to take a break; but when we come back, we’re going to talk about giving and budgeting this Christmas. And we just might answer the question: “Is there really a Santa Claus?”
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. This weekend, we are talking about Christmas giving and receiving. If you’re like me, you want to be generous and give, give, give; but unfortunately, there’s a limitation to my bank account.
Right now, we’re going to talk about a gift that you might not realize is a gift; because it doesn’t come with a big, red bow on it on Christmas morning—it’s your financial gift at Christmas or at this yearend to ministries, to churches, and to missionaries. A while back, Dennis and Bob had a chance to sit down with Randy Alcorn and talk about the blessings that come with giving.
Randy is an author of the best-selling book, Heaven, along with other numerous other books, including The Treasure Principle. He lives in Oregon with his wife Nancy. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. When he spoke with Bob and Dennis, Randy said that there’s a significant joy that comes from being generous with what God has given us. Oh, and here comes that addiction part—
[Previous FamilyLife Today Interview]
Randy: Giving is an addictive behavior; it’s a very positive addiction. It’s one that you just love; you take pleasure in. Talking about people’s joy in giving reminds me of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. At the end of The Treasure Principle, I quote from A Christmas Carol, where, after Scrooge’s encounters with the three spirits on Christmas Day, here this miserly businessman is given another chance at life. Here’s what it says—and notice the emphasis on the change: what giving was doing to Scrooge and what perspective was doing to Scrooge’s giving. It says:
He went to church, and he walked about the streets. He watched the people hurrying to and fro. He patted children on the head. He helped beggars. He looked down into the kitchens of houses. He looked up in the windows. He found everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk/that anything could give him so much happiness as this.
And then it ends with this statement:
Some people laughed to see the alteration in Scrooge, but he let them laugh and little heeded them. His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him. And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
Dennis: Randy, I want to wrap things up here by just, perhaps, reviewing some principles from your book, The Treasure Principle; but also, it seems that one of the things we err on the side of is silence when it comes to giving. We don’t talk a great deal about giving, because we’re afraid that somehow—well, we read over in Matthew, Chapter 6, that if we talk about these things, we could lose our reward.
Certainly, that’s true; the Bible makes it clear we’re not to boast, and not to do things to receive the applause of people; but, on the other hand, we really need to hear from some couples/families that are real heroes/courageous givers. I think you call them “Giving warriors.”
Randy: That’s right. Scripture says we are to “stimulate one another to love and good works.” We can’t stimulate each other to something/we can’t be an example to each other in an area without people knowing some basic facts of what we’re doing. In the same way that I would know who to go to to ask for advice on how to cultivate a prayer life, I want to know who to go to—
Randy: —to learn all we can learn about giving, and the joy of giving, and “How do you do it?” and “How did you get started on this path of giving?”
Bob: In your book, The Treasure Principle, you lay out six basic principles that should govern our thinking with regard to our stuff: our money, our resources, and how we ought to use it. Can you quickly go through those for us?
Randy: Yes; the treasure principleitself is: “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” This is where Jesus says, “Don’t lay up treasures on earth, but do lay up treasures in heaven,”—“You can’t take it with you; you can send it on ahead.”
The first key is that: “God owns everything; I’m His money-manager.” I remember: “Whose assets are these? They belong, not to me; they belong to God, and I’ve been entrusted with them to invest wisely for His kingdom.”
The second key is: “My heart always goes where I put God’s money.” That’s based on what Jesus says in that same context: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If I want a heart for God’s kingdom, there’s a way to get it; and that’s to give to God’s kingdom.
The third key to the treasure principle is that: “Heaven, not earth, is my home.” As long as I think of earth as my home, I’m going to naturally lay up my treasures here; but when I realize that heaven is my home, I’m going to focus on giving, investing in eternity, and laying up treasures in heaven.
Key number four: “I should live, not for the dot, but for the line”; because, you know, our life here is brief: it begins, and it ends. It’s like a dot, but from that dot extends a line that goes out for all eternity; so if we’re smart, we’re not going to live for the dot, we’re going to live for the line.
Randy: We’re going to live in light of eternity.
Bob: And the Bible says our life is like a mist or a vapor; it vanishes quickly in light of eternity; but we have to have, as you suggest, an eternal perspective.
Randy: Yes, that’s right.
Key number five: “Giving is the only antidote to materialism.” Materialism is really a disease. Sometimes, it’s called “affluenza”; you know? [Laughter] And it’s something that needs a cure; it needs an antidote. Giving is that antidote: it says, “No,” to just the accumulation of stuff; and it says, “Yes,” to investing in eternity.
Then the sixth and final key to the treasure principle is that: “God prospers me, not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.” The reason He has entrusted this stuff to me—I should not assume is just so I can keep it—in the same way that the FedEx guy shouldn’t assume that, “Just because somebody gave me these packages means I should take them home.” [Laughter]
Michelle: There was a part in Randy’s discussion with Dennis and Bob that stuck with me: “If you want a heart for God’s kingdom, you should give to God’s kingdom”; because, really, if you think about it, all good gifts come from the Father; so if He gives to us generously, how can we be stingy with what we give back to Him? That’s kind of an uncomfortable thought; isn’t it? Well, I encourage you to listen to the entire discussion by going to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Okay, so money—money, we know, is a big issue, whether you’re giving it away or you are keeping it, or whether you’re buying Christmas presents with it. Having it in excess and not having enough of it—we’ve got both sides of the issue that can get us into trouble.
Before we get into trouble, I wanted to turn to a friend, whom I’ve known for many years. I met this next guest on my first day on the job at a radio station in Alaska. He was there to help out the local station. Steve Moore is a radio veteran, just like Bob Lepine. He’s co-host of the daily radio call-in program, MoneyWise. Hi, Steve!
Steve: Hello, Michelle!
Michelle: So how does it work between you and Marsha? I know one of you has probably got to be the generous giver, and one of you is a little stingy. How does that work in your marriage at Christmastime?
Steve: When it comes to Christmas, it has to do with my wife wanting to be more generous than I want to be. I’m always the frugal guy, and she’s the one who leads with her heart. It really has to do with: “How much money we’re going to spend on Christmas?” We tended to spend more on our children when they were younger, wanting their Christmases to be like our Christmases were, which were pretty generous on behalf of our parents; but as my children got older—particularly, as they moved out of the house—I found myself getting a bit tighter with the dollars.
The bottom line is Marsha and I had to learn how to discuss money before Christmas and come to an agreement. We actually—we would pray; and that alone, sometimes, could be somewhat awkward; because you’re sitting down with your spouse to tell God that you’re not in agreement, and asking for His help and blessing. Like it or not, that’s always a little strained and a little strange, perhaps. But we would pray about it, then we would talk about it, then we would toss out a dollar figure that felt good to us.
Interestingly, almost always, my figure and Marsha’s figure would be within a few dollars of each other, even though we sensed we were going to have a major disagreement. I really do believe that a husband and wife should get together: admit to one another that you have different agendas and different dollar figures in mind; ask God to intervene and help you. Most likely, you’re going to find a happy medium—something that may not be her best but won’t be your worst—and will fit into God’s economy and God’s plan for your family and your children.
Michelle: I also have a question—as in we know, these days, that the Christmas wish lists from kids are a mile long; and parents want to give the kids everything on that list. Give us some tips on how we can avoid debt.
Steve: I think it’s probably tougher with smaller children, because it’s hard to explain the realities of gift-giving to little children, who watch too much television and believe that every gift they hope for is going to be there on Christmas morning, under the tree. But it’s worth discussing; obviously, it’s worth discussing with small children—even the real reason for Christmas and the Christmas story.
At some point, explaining that: “You may not get everything. God blesses us with all sorts of wonderful things, particularly at the Christmas season, but not necessarily everything.” Obviously, as your children get a little bit older, you can explain to them that: “Mom and Dad, as a family, can’t afford to buy you everything; so what are the two or three things that you really would like to see Christmas morning?”
Then you and your husband/you and your wife discuss these things; pray about these things; and best of all, budget these things way in advance. Now, if it’s already November or December and you haven’t budgeted, then you’ll have to give God an opportunity to work creatively in your lives; but going into deep debt to buy the latest thing on TV is probably not the way to go.
More than likely, when you talk to adult children, they never remember the doo-dads and the plastic things they wanted. They remember the time spent together as a family; they remember visiting friends and relatives; they remember Christmas meals. Those are the memories, typically, that have the greatest influence on children as they become young adults, not whether or not they received the latest plastic gizmo.
Michelle: Okay; so Steve, I love giving at Christmas. I love giving Christmas presents; but I have to buy, and I have a very limited budget. Help me understand how to avoid credit card debt.
Steve: Remember, the reason parents may be struggling to pay for Christmas is because they didn’t think about it in advance. If that’s the case this year, you need to budget for next Christmas. Review what you spent this year, then plan ahead for next Christmas. If you spent $600 this year, start setting aside $50/month for next Christmas. I know it may not feel good; you want to put it in the back of your mind. The only way to prepare for something 12 months further out is to start doing your homework, right now, and to start setting aside some money, right now, so that next Christmas is all that you want it to be for you and your family.
Michelle: Great. Thanks, Steve; that’s great advice. I’ll keep that in mind as I finish up my Christmas presents, like the rest of America. Hopefully, not everybody else is buying on the 20th like I am.
Okay, one last question before I let you go: “Is there a Santa Claus?”
Steve: I don’t know if there’s really a Santa Claus. [Laughter] There is a fat guy, that lives on my block, with a beard; but I’ve called the police, and they’re checking him out.
Michelle: Oh!! [Laughter] Well, Steve, thanks for joining us today on FamilyLife This Week.
Steve: Alright, kiddo! My pleasure. If you ever come to Atlanta, let us know; we’ll buy you lunch!
Michelle: I’ll take you up on that. Thanks, Steve.
Steve: Alright, Michelle. God bless!
Michelle: That was Steve Moore, giving parents some help on giving. Actually, I have a friend who has begun the tradition of the four-gift rule—it is: one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing to wear, and one thing they read. Did you get that?—want, need, wear, and read. We’ve got that on our website. Go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; that’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
So, Miss Universe always says that what she wants most, within that year that she’s going to win, you know, the crown—she says she wants “world peace.” Doesn’t that sound nice? I want world peace too. Well, we’re going to talk about world peace—okay, maybe not world peace—but we’re going to talk about true peace next week with Voddie Baucham. You’ll want to tune in for that: FamilyLife This Week.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. And a big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Keith Lynch, who puts up with the crazy in me graciously. Thanks to our producers, Bruce Goff, Marques Holt, and Phil Krause. They make me sound a lot better than I am. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator extraordinaire.
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