The statistics aren't available yet, but the questions proliferate: After two years of "anemic" spending in December, will the retail market rebound? Will Americans prop up an ailing economy by spending lots of money on Christmas presents?

Wherever the numbers end up, women will make the majority of the decisions surrounding purchases throughout December. As Belinda Luscombe recently reported in Time, "[Women] make 85% of the buying decisions or are the chief purchasing officers of their households." Further, as women control more than 50 percent of private wealth in America, and as women—in certain age groups and metropolitan centers—begin to outearn men (see "The Growing Buying Power of Women"), Luscombe comments, "The more money women earn, the exponentially more money they manage. And women are increasingly making the calls where men have traditionally held sway."

Questions about how and where we spend money are relevant at all times. But December marks a time when we spend money in disproportionate amounts compared with the other eleven months of the year. As Christmas approaches, how should Christian women think about spending money on gifts, and food, and decorations?

A number of Bible passages highlight the significance of money to our spiritual lives. Jesus warns that worrying about money can choke spiritual growth (see Matt. 13:22). He warns about the difficulty of rich people entering the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24). The Epistles similarly demonstrate the problems caused by money. 1 Timothy 6:10 sums it up: "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."

Spending money becomes a spiritual problem when it leads to idolatry, materialism, and/or wastefulness. Pastor Tim Keller identifies money as a cultural idol in Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power - and the Only Hope That Matters. He writes about greed as a form of idolatry and remarks that this idol "can't be removed, only replaced. It must be supplanted by the one who, though rich, became poor, so that we might truly be rich."

Perhaps we should demonstrate our solidarity with Christ, therefore, by spending as little as possible. But not spending money poses its own problems. Not spending can become hoarding or lead to self-righteousness. The Bible extols generosity and even, in certain cases, riches, when used to glorify God. Think of the woman described in Proverbs 31, for instance, who works hard, profits from her work, and gives generously to the poor. A biblical approach to money, especially as we seek to celebrate the Incarnation, neither spends wantonly nor disdains spending altogether. Rather, a biblical approach to spending understands money as a tool to facilitate generosity, hospitality, and celebration.

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Paul Miller, author of A Praying Life, once pointed out to me that Americans typically use money to divide. Money allows us to build bigger houses farther apart from our neighbors. It enables each member of a family to have her own room, her own car, her own computer, her own television. Money, in other words, can contribute to a sense of entitlement, and can lead to isolation. But a righteous use of money brings people together. It facilitates community. It glorifies God. As women find themselves with more and more choices regarding money in general, and as we approach the Christmas season in particular, how can we use money to worship the one who became poor? And how can we use money to bring people together rather than divide?

First, we can be generous. As sociologists Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson point out in Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money, American Christians give 1 to 2 percent of their income away each year. Christian and non-Christians alike treat the holidays as a "season of giving." For Christians, charitable gifts become one way to express gratitude and respond to God's love for us.

Second, we can be hospitable, to neighbors and strangers alike. Hosting meals, throwing parties, and bringing people together costs money. According to the Bible, these gatherings can be money well spent. After Jesus called Levi to "leave everything," Levi invited Jesus and his disciples over for dinner. He also invited his own tax collector and "sinner" friends (see Luke 5:27-32). "Leaving everything" entailed using money differently than Levi had in the past, but in his case, it did not involve giving all his money to charity. Similarly, we can use money to bring people together, particularly around the holidays.

Third, we can use money to celebrate. The Incarnation of Jesus invites a celebration of the material world. God comes into the physical world and, in so doing, blesses and promises to redeem the physical world. This blessing does not give license to greed or hedonism, but it does mean that Christians can enjoy beautiful things and celebrate materiality by giving good gifts at Christmas.

When it comes to spending money, women wield much power. With that power comes the responsibility to give, to welcome, and to rejoice in the gift that was given to the world on Christmas morn.