At this time of Christmas and gift giving, there can be tremendous pressure to meet a certain standard. And the question arises, “is giving a used gift valid”?
It probably depends on the circles you run in. If you see a used tricycle at a garage sale and buy it for the neighbor kid next door, is that a legitimate gift? The kid might be happy. The parents might not be. It depends on their attitude and fears and desires for acceptance.
In today’s culture, there might be a lot of shaming if something is not new and shiny, but the fact is, in some circles, older is better … real estate and iconic mansions, classic cars, solid antique furniture, crown jewels, Shakespeare, the Bible. Not everything has to be new and shiny to have value.
In the Old Testament, the Lord often told the children of Israel to take the spoil. “Spoil” in older English vocabulary means something different than the word “spoil” means today. We thing of spoil today as being something like moldy bread or moldy cheese that has spoiled or milk that has gone bad. But the word “spoil” in the past was more synonymous with the word “stuff”. In other words, they got the stuff. They went in and got the tents, the tools, the cooking utensils, the weapons, the clothing, the food, the animals … anything that was left by the enemy. And … wait for it … it was all used. So the Lord is not prejudiced against used stuff. He told them to go get it.
You can take anything used, clean it up, spiff it up, and make it useful. A child particularly would rather have a used tricycle than no tricycle at all.
I get it. If you are an ambassador to a nation you need a new suit. You don’t live in a trailer home. You don’t show up in the Senate in army fatigues. But neither do you go milk a cow and take care of the chickens in a tuxedo.
There is a time and place for everything.
If someone in a household is insistent on buying everything new and shiny, it puts a tremendous pressure on the household finances that doesn’t need to be there. It can cause a lot of trouble in the household.
I’ve heard of people who will spend $50 on a child’s outfit. Why? The child will outgrow it in a matter of weeks.
On the other hand, I know of people who operate more as a group. They get some of those big black tubs with yellow lids and put children’s clothing and maternity clothing in them and pass them around within the community. Once a family is done with a certain size clothing, there is generally someone else that can use it for a season and then again pass it on. It takes so much stress out of the situation of having to buy everything new every time for each child.
Of course, this goes back to the circles you walk in. There are some families or perhaps home school communities that are more communal and everyone lives at a certain basic standard … in other words, they keep things clean, laundered, repaired, and then share things. They don’t pass on dirty, broken stuff. They operate at a certain level of diligence and cleanliness and order. And they are not that fussy about how “new” something is. They have learned that material things, while necessary to life, are not the main focus in life. But if there is a common Christian culture, these understandings should be basic anyway.
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