There is something inconsistent with yesterday and today coming together as they do. Yesterday was a day of thanksgiving, a day to focus on all the blessings we have received. Today is the Black Friday sales day where people rush out to get more of the stuff they said they were thankful for yesterday. Each year there are stories about the long lines in front of stores, people waiting to shop long before the store opens. Some people have camped out all night to be the first in line to get the best bargain. Some are willing to sacrifice their comfort, their time, their sleep in order to get something that likely will be obsolete or broken in a few years. We are strange people! Thanksgiving Day yesterday was about something quite different. It was about realizing and remembering all of the sacrifices that have been made for us to have the life we have. Hopefully this also stirs us to be willing to sacrifice something of ourselves for the good of others. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to get the best deal on something we want to buy, but let’s keep our perspective fixed on what is truly important.
Why are you sitting there reading my message? You are supposed to be out shopping and helping the economy! Yes, I’m being sarcastic. This is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, that is one of the biggest sales days for merchants in the U.S. I even got 4 or 5 Black Friday advertisements in my e-mail this morning. It just strikes me how quickly we go from being thankful for all the blessings we have, to running out and collecting more stuff. OK, I know everybody likes a good deal. I know merchants need to make a profit. I know some of the shopping is for gifts to give other. Etc. Etc. I would just like to see a little less commercialism pushed into our lives, and a little more living in an attitude of thankfulness for God’s grace that is continually poured upon us. They started Christmas advertising two weeks before Thanksgiving. But I’m not going to change it, and neither are you. We can, though, use it all to remind our selves of the true source of all we really need. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,…”(James 1:17)
Opening up my e-mail this morning I had at least six ads for Black Friday sales. Pictures were out last night in the media of people camping out in front of big box stores to be the first to get special deals. The”black” in Black Friday is the hope of merchants that the holiday season will keep them in the black in their financial ledger. Our desire is to heap up more things, and then build bigger barns to keep them in. I seem to remember a parable Jesus told about that! (Luke 12) We all like to give and receive gifts at Christmas time. There is nothing wrong with that. There are certain things we need and want. That’s fine. But we need to be careful not to lose the truths God has taught us about learning to be content, about trusting Him for all things, and putting the needs of others before ourselves. We also realize that we have already been given the greatest gift possible – God coming among us Himself in Jesus Christ and giving us the gift of life. In that is the joy of this Christmas Season.
Black Friday lives on! And whatever Saturday was called, and now Cyber Monday. Some of the stories coming out of this weekend are horrendous. Lord God, are we so obsessed with having things that we will do anything to get them? All right, I admit it. I’m not a shopper, but I do like my things, too. Give me a good hardware store, or a tool catalog, and I can spend an hour at it. But pepper spray just to get at one item?!! Paul wrote to Timothy, “We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (ITim.6:7-8) We all have so much more than just our food and clothing, but people are not content. The whole issue of consumerism is complex because of the world we’ve created around it, trapping us all. But can we learn something about moderation, and contentment with the things we have? Paul had said just prior to the passage I quoted, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Jesus’ words are always our guide, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (basic needs) will be be given to you as well.” (Mt.6:33)
Yesterday was a national day of Thanksgiving. I wrote about the difference in our giving thanks for things that are transient, and things that are lasting. Now, today is “Black Friday”, the day all the merchants want to begin selling their Christmas goods to end the year in the black. (Christmas, a day we set to celebrate the incarnation of our God!) A news headline this morning reads: “Black Friday shoppers across the nation are eagerly snapping up deals on everything from TVs to power tools.” On Thursday we give thanks, and on Friday we go out to buy more things to be thankful for! Over the last 3 hundred years we’ve built a society that is dependent upon getting and having more stuff. Individual merchants to large corporations are always looking at their bottom line. Nations are dependent upon international trade balances. I’m not an economists, and my words certainly can’t change anything, but should we not at least be conscious of what we have done, realizing that something is very wrong with the world? (I said the other day I raise issues we can’t do anything about!) But we can observe. We can compare what we see to the truth of Scripture. We can come before the Lord in repentance, asking for mercy. We can govern our own behavior, and strengthen our own values. And we can pray earnestly for the Lord’s return to straighten out the mess we’ve made of His creation.
Workers are rebelling against the early Black Friday opening of stores, and well they should. But this points to a problem with roots far deeper than merchants wanting to make a profit this Christmas season. Unfortunately, it is one of those problems I point out from time to time that we can’t change. Since the Industrial Revolution we have created a society dependent upon acquiring things. We must sell more. We want more. We must earn more. We make all kinds of changes and compromises in order to keep our way of life going. I said, we are not going to change it, short of a total economic collapse. I’m just as dependent upon goods and services as everyone else. But can we at least recognize it? Can we realize that this is not where the Lord wanted us; that it is one of the idols we’ve created, and bring it before the Lord in repentance and prayer? It was only when God’s people saw their desperate condition that they cried out to the Lord for help, and He heard their prayers.
I am pretty sure God never intended us to have our world based upon the accumulation of things. This is Black Friday, the day all of the merchants and financial analysts are looking at to see if consumers buy lots more things. That will be the indication of the health, at least economic health, of our society. I’ll eventually do my Christmas shopping too, but I’m sure not starting at 3 am this Friday, as some of the stores around here have offered to let me do. Jesus talked a lot about money and things, and He wasn’t opposed to them. He just wanted us to keep all things in their right place. He said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”(Matthew 6:31-33) Things are nice. I’ve been blessed with a lot of them, but God is so much better. Let’s enjoy Him.