MOTIVATION: Ashley Thaba

Most of us can genuinely say we love our children and would do anything for them. Sadly, in an effort to please and demonstrate our love, we actually end up inadvertently hurting them, particularly around this time of year.

Let me quote 1 Timothy 6:6-11. Then, let’s dissect it for lessons we can learn around Christmas time.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain. We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

Around this time of year, the discussions with my children begin to change and focus immensely on material things. “Mom, so and so is getting this. I want this for Christmas. Why can’t I have…?

Mom, I’ll be so happy if I get…” These types of conversations leave me in concern and prayer. I want my children to understand the value of being content with what they have, but simultaneously, I don’t want to deny them gifts and make them feel unloved in a commercial world that feeds them the lie everyday that Christmas is a time to spend enormous amounts of money, buying people you love gifts. How can I protect them from focusing so much on loving things that will be plunged into “ruin and destruction?” I believe this verse holds incalculable wisdom, because I have observed both personally and through the lives of public figures what can happen to people who set their sights on material gain in an effort to gain happiness. I can testify that for the love of money many, indeed, do foolish and harmful things.

I have observed even in myself how much I have sought certain things of specific monetary value. I have dreamed and obsessed over acquiring some “thing” only to be left dissatisfied when the wait is over and the present is opened. Within a few weeks, I am bored of the “thing” and set my sights on something new, only to end up with closets full of stuff that offered a moment of joy and ultimately end up in a landfill to pollute our earth.

On the flip side, there are a few special gifts that stand out over the years that really meant a lot and still remain meaningful to this day.

What I am trying to say is, I don’t believe it is the presence or absence of gifts/money that makes us happy or unhappy. There is nothing wrong with getting/giving gifts at Christmas.

However, I think we should realise the truth of this verse that the best gift we can give our children is the lesson of contentment. Real gain is found when no matter what you have, you are at peace and filled with joy.

Success in life is gained when we don’t believe the lie that some “thing” will make us happy. We need to ask God for wisdom to teach our children to not love “stuff”, but rather to love Jesus and to be cheerful even if they don’t get presents.

I remember one Christmas growing up very vividly. My parents, affluent people who had always generously lavished us with presents, decided we were too spoiled and needed a life lesson. They informed us that year we would not be getting presents. Instead, we would go shopping as a family and each buy presents that we would want, but to give away to a less privileged child.

Our initial reaction was naturally one of grumbling. Entitled little people that we were, we argued it wasn’t fair! We needed presents! They didn’t budge and we finally gave up. After a couple of hours of family fun time, cruising the aisles of many stores purchasing presents to donate, we put all the gifts in a huge bag. We then drove to a section of town that was notably poorer than our own. We prayed and asked God to lead us to the right house.

We drove around until somehow one just seemed to “pop”. My dad got out of the car, while we all watched from the window, put the big bag on the doorstep and rang the bell. He ran back to the car as we gleefully shouted “hurry dad!” We didn’t want to be caught! The goal was to give without being thanked.

Off we sped and to this day, I have no idea who opened that door and what they thought. Oh, and after we found joy in giving and contentment in the knowledge we wouldn’t get presents, my parents did actually give us gifts. The memory remains, the lesson was learned and I have no idea what gifts we got that year for Christmas. It paled in comparison to the joy of working as a family to give to someone less fortunate.

In the hustle of the holiday season, let’s not forget the last part of this verse, challenging us to actively pursue righteousness, love, faith, gentleness, among other things.

Don’t just give your child a gift they can hold in their hands this year. Give them a gift they can hold in their hearts. Intentionally be aware that the best gift you can give them is contentment regardless of whether they obtain more stuff or not. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

Ashley Thaba is a popular life-coach, team-building facilitator and motivational speaker. She is also the author of Conquering the Giants and Dive In. You can view some of her works on her YouTube channel: Ashley Thaba.