Christian, Please Read This Before Black Friday

This is a simple post.

Estimated Cost to Feed Every Person in the World: $30 billion per year (UN estimate)
Estimated Cost to Provide Clean Water for Africa: $41 billion (WHO estimate)
Estimated Cost to Provide Clean Water to the World: $203 billion (WHO estimate)

Estimated Spending in the US on Black Friday: $60 billion
Estimated Spending in the US for Christmas Season: $640 billionethiopian-boy

No matter how you spin those numbers, this weekend and in the coming weeks Americans will exchange the possibility of food and clean water for the poorest of the world for HD TV’s, iPads, and ugly ties.

We cannot change the spending habits of every American. And there is more to solving these global crises than just dollars. Distribution and availability problems will remain even when the dollars are there. But we can do something. And the dollars will take us a long way toward getting there.

I also recognize the real life pressures of this season. You do not want to hurt your family members and friends that have come to expect a gift as a show of love and appreciation. So I am not going to suggest that you eliminate all gift giving. I will only suggest four easy steps for changing habits around this gift giving season.

First, go through your entire Christmas list and determine who might appreciate some kind of alternative gift and what it would mean to another person. Not everyone will see this as a great thing. But those who will, decide to give those gifts differently.

Second, consider the things that really matter to that person. Teachers may appreciate the gift of education (domestically or globally). Someone that has experienced abuse may appreciate gifts for domestic violence agencies. Others will just have an issue that has captured their heart. Those that will appreciate donations to these organizations, give in their name. Sometimes I like to include a picture from that organization’s resources. Many organizations now provide images that can be downloaded and printed that are central to their mission like the one from charity:water above.

Third, for those that would not appreciate a donation in lieu of a gift, consider what socially conscious gift they might appreciate. I gave my mother a purse from byTavi last year and she loved it. I told the story of the organization and about the young, at-risk women that make these purses in Cambodia. I included some of the organizations promotional literature. She was busy telling all her friends about it at work.

Four, go through the list of people that you normally provide a Christmas wish list. The ones that would enjoy giving you gifts of this kind, send them info on how to give to the organizations that you care about.

The call is simple. I believe that we have an opportunity to witness to God’s coming Kingdom this Christmas. May we pray with Mary:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
     for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

Related Post: It Takes More Than A Dollar To End Hunger

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Some other organizations that I like:

Divine Chocolate: Lots of chocolate is fair trade, and that is a good thing, but Divine Chocolate has a significant share of the company owned by the cocoa farmers of Ghana: the only chocolate company that can make this claim. This is more than fair trade. Two of the farmers from Ghana are on the directors board.

The Water Project: Charity: water is a good organization and is one of the best at raising awareness about clean water. I like both charity:water and The Water Project because they allow you to set up a personal giving site where people can donate to your project via a link that you provide. This is great if you want people to give YOU these kinds of gifts. Both are also really good about updating you with the progress on the well that you helped to dig. The Water Project is a Christian mission.

Heifer International: Heifer is a well-known alternative giving site. They have an entire catalog where you can decide to give a goat, chicken, or other income generating gifts to a person in the developing world. Lots of people like this because a livestock animal is such a tangible item.

Thistle Farms: A residential program for abused and trafficked women in Tennessee. They sell bath products and other body care products primarily. They employ more than 40 women that are residents or former residents of their residential program.

Plywood People: They sell a series of totes, wallets, and similar products (Billboard Bags) that are upcycled from old billboards in Georgia by local refugees in a training program to teach sewing as a job skill. They do a lot to teach about social entrepreneurship.


  1. Mary Jane Bausman says

    Amen!! We have been giving “alternative” gifts for many years …usually through World Vision. Honestly, it hasn’t always been appreciated by all recipients , but if you think about it, on our birthdays people give us gits that please us,Christmas is the birthday celebration for Jesus..shouldn’t we give gifts that delight HIS HEART?? What better way than caring for His children.

    • says

      I tried just cutting all gifts out one year. There was a minor revolt from my family. But I’m learning that there are some that prefer it. I don’t mind buying a few ugly ties. 🙂

  2. Andrew Seyfried says

    The fact that America can end global hunger for a year in one day is mind blowing. This inspired me to do some changes in my Christmas list. Great article.


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