black santaI was thinking today about wants versus needs and I am reminded, once again, of my childhood. How each year when aunts and uncles and grandparents would visit, Christmas gifts were about needs. That’s when you got your new socks or pajamas or shirts and pants. The only other time you got those things was during back to school shopping. And so we weren’t really conditioned to expect anything because we had little to be extravagant about. But somehow, at least one thing we really liked would manage to make its way under the tree and that was always appreciated as a blessing and not an entitlement.

I guess that is why I get so annoyed at people who act as though they are entitled to anything other than what they need- especially parents who have their children believing it is ok to spend outrageous amounts of money on a piece of something just because it has a certain label when you struggling just to eat. We had somewhat of a holiday tradition in our family that you could either get the biggest thing off of your wants list that could be afforded for Christmas, or you get one of the lessor things and then hit the stores after Christmas with the remaining money and get whatever you could find on sale for half or more off.

So the day after Christmas became our favorite day of the year. The lessons we were really learning was living within our means and being thankful for what we got. That is not to say that it is wrong to want more. But for that, you always have to consider the price, and whether or not it is worth paying it. I’m not just talking about the price tag, but sometimes the price you have to pay on your conscience or time together with loved ones- those intangible priceless moments in life that people all too often sacrifice just so they can have more.

Extra work hours and child raised by strangers and the TV just so you can have a fancier house or car and you wonder why your child’s values are so messed up. Selling food stamps so your child or grandchild can have a $100 pair of Jordans when you on Section 8 and can’t even afford to pay full rent but want to complain if they late or cut back on your money. And you wonder why the same child in jail for murder as a teenager for shooting somebody over a pair of sneakers?

These are the kinds of “bass ackward” values we be teaching our kids today. Like saying no is something we should be ashamed of. But if you broke, then you broke. That doesn’t mean your values need to be broken too. Out of the six kids in our house, not a one of us remained in the projects or on public assistance. It had nothing to do with anything except the way we was raised. If we had to sweep floors, we swept floors. If we had to scrub toilets, that’s what we did. We were taught to be responsible for our own wants and needs. But more than that, we were taught to look out for the true needs of our brothers and sisters whether we was related or not.

Because of the most government shutdown and inability of Congress to agree on anything, many states are starting to stop benefits like WIC and Head Start and other programs that are funded by tax payers. The people responsible for this shut down have made it clear who and what they really care about and it certainly is not us. The truth is, we should have never expected anything but this kind of behavior from them. Our higher expectations should be what we expect from each other. There’s been a lot of us getting over for a long time and we all know who they are. Life is about to change for them. But before you are tempted to feel no pity because you have always had to pay full rent and live within your means while they partied, drank, and smoked, the night away, remember what James had to say of wisdom: “If anyone seeks the wisdom of God, give it willingly according to what they are able to hear, without criticizing or saying I told you so.” If there is ever an opportunity to actually walk in the spirit of the church rather than just going TO church, it is now. These are the times and places where true ministry lives. -Neo Blaqness