Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Plastic Love"

Matthew 23.17b, 19b CEV

Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”

Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”

“A survey by the U.S. National Retail Federation last year suggested that eight out of ten people would include gift cards among their holiday shopping purchases.”[1] And why not? Gift cards make gift-giving easy. What better way to show your affection than a piece of plastic pre-loaded with buying power at your loved one’s favorite retail center? “About 96 million Starbucks cards have been activated since they were launched in 2001 — and customers have reloaded those cards more than 38 million times.”[2]

How did (and will) America’s fascination with convenient gift-giving evolve? Maybe like this…

A Long Time Ago: People actually made gifts for each other. They were inevitably the wrong color, size, style, or flavor but no one ever expected a gift receipt. There was no return policy. You simply kept what you got and brought it out (wore it, displayed it, ate it, etc.) when the gift-giver came for a visit.
Not So Long Ago: People procured birthday and Christmas lists from loved ones and scurried around retail centers looking for “the perfect gift.” It was wrapped and presented with a gift receipt for convenient returns. Thank you notes were hand-written and sent within a couple weeks.
Now: The gift-giver learns of the gift recipient’s favorite store or restaurant. No real creativity required. Simply name your price and purchase a Target, Macy’s, or Starbuck’s gift card. They are light-weight, easy to mail, and simple to redeem. For those who insist on an actual physical gift-wrapped present, Internet shopping is still an excellent option.
Someday Soon: Gift-giving becomes a super efficient, direct financial deposit with automatic email notification: “You’ve Got Gifts!” The credited gift account sends an electronic “thank you” and eliminates the need for messy human contact. What could be easier?

It’s easy to confuse the item we call a gift for the real gift. The gift is not the gift. You are the gift. The tangible gift item is nothing more than a legitimate excuse to make contact with another human being. Alone it means nothing. You are indispensable in the act of gift-giving. Without you, there is no gift, just the exchange of money or commodities.

You make the gift you give “sacred” and “sacred” gifts are the only gifts worth giving.

“Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?”

“Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”


[1] "Gift Cards: The Lure of Plastic", In Depth Economy, CBS News, Last Updated: Friday, December 5, 2008.

[2] This quote appeared in the original CBS article "Gift Cards: The Lure of Plastic" dated December 10, 2007 and replaced, in the updated article, with: "The most successful gift card in North America may be the one offered by Starbucks. The company estimates 10 per cent of all the caffeine hits served up by its North American baristas is paid for by gift cards. It's also the only retailer that will let you use your gift card to buy another for someone else."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your message about gifts. I had not previously considered that an honorable motivation to give a gift is because we wish to connect with another person. This is instead of just filling an obligation, or givign because it is expected. This changes for me how I am going to consider giving birhtday, Christmas and spontaneous gifts.

Best regards,


davescriven said...

Hi Michael,

Thank you so much for your positive feedback on that insight. The gift-giving thing was a revelation to me as well.

God Bless,