When I think of the command “spend less” my mind first goes to money and the crazed consumerism that takes hold (as I write this on “Black Friday”) of shoppers bargain hunting the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday shoppers certainly are seeking to spend less are often successful, but what does that have to do with Advent? I blame the ethos of capitalism that overwhelms our consciousness these days for thinking of crowded malls; but even when I think about spending less in a biblical context my mind still goes to money. I think about the poor widow’s offering in Luke 21, where a woman gave all she had when giving two small copper coins in contrast to the rich who gave far more from their great wealth and surplus.
From this passage we learn that it is not the amount we give that matters but it is our disposition of the heart that is significant. It is then not so important how much we spend but why we are spending (or in the case of the parable, giving) at all. Thus, the exhortation is not so much to spend less, but to spend or give wisely. The exhortation to spend wisely applies to areas of life that extend beyond money. Where we put our time and energy is also vitally important and also communicates what we value in life. Advent is one of the seasons of the year that asks us to consider how much of ourselves and our life we are giving to build God’s kingdom. Advent gives us the opportunity to take time out of our hectic lives to ponder how we are spending the great gift of our time.
Spend less time:
* Comparing your life to others (whether comparing something as small as presents received or more macro things such as job, income, or marital status)
* Buying things you don’t truly need or will not use
* Dwelling on the past or worrying about the future
* Complaining about or criticizing other people
* Online, plugged into technology
When we think about Advent as a season to prepare for God’s arrival into human history (and Christmas as a season, not just a single day, to celebrate the Incarnation) we are reminded that our very life is a gift. Living in the moment, being present to ourselves and those around us, spending time with loved ones, and being a good steward of resources, are all ways we can make the most of the gift of life, fulfill our God-given potential and build one another up. Realizing our Christian call to love unconditionally that Jesus would model for us in His time on earth and using our time wisely cultivates good habits of the heart, which is what ultimately matters, for our fulfillment and human flourishing and for the good of our world.
I recently did an activity with one of my retreat teams that asked each person to name the first word that came to mind when they heard the word “God”. Emmanuel (meaning God with us) immediately came to my mind. During Advent we are called to live with that reality in mind, that God is with us… and spend accordingly.
Carl Caceres is a Coordinator for Faith and Ministry in the CFJ in his second year at Xavier. He appreciates being part of the family-like Xavier University community and especially enjoys cheering on the Muskies at Cintas Center. In his free time Carl enjoys watching films that make him think more deeply and complexly about the world, reading applied theology and shooting free throws at O’Connor.