They call it, “Black Friday.” The Friday after Thanksgiving is the one day when people in the United States spend more money, and buy more things than any other day of the year. In some cases, more things are bought and sold on this day than in the previous six months. More than one in three American adults goes shopping on Black Friday. This year, over the “Black Friday weekend, over 247 million Americans spent more than 59 billion dollars. In addition to Black Friday, this year there was “Gray Thursday” with some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.
Am I the only one who thinks there is something seriously wrong with this picture? This is more than just an opportunity for retailers to bring their books in the black, which is where the term black Friday originated. In reality however, the driving force behind Black Friday is a combination of greed and consumerism. Retailers play on the buyer’s desire to have more and more of the latest and greatest. Consumers strategize and prepare weeks, or months in advance to get the best deals, and to get them before everyone else. As one shopper said, “Anything to get the best deal.”
Although this day may be a shot in the arm to our struggling economy, there is something disturbing about people weathering the elements to stand in block-long lines, and even camping out all night on the sidewalk in front of a store, just to take advantage of saving a few dollars. I watched the news clips of this year’s Black Friday, and was amazed how people stormed into stores running over each other, pushing, shoving and grabbing at things on the shelves. I saw one woman coming out of a store with four, 40-inch, flat-screen TVs stacked on her shopping cart. For some, it does not matter if they needed the things they bought or not, because it’s all about the thrill of getting them, and getting them at bargain prices.
What disturbs me most is to see this kind of behavior taking place at a time when human suffering and poverty in our world have reached unacceptable levels. For example, over 21,000 children die every day from preventable causes – access to clean water, medicine and nutritional food. Just a small percentage of what Americans spend on Black Friday would greatly reduce, if not eliminate these needless deaths.
They call it “Black Friday” and in one sense of the word, it is indeed a dark day! It is a day that reveals the darkness of our self-centered priorities, and the power of the Kingdom of Darkness – power to control and manipulate our lives.
For followers of Jesus, there is definitely something wrong with what we see every year on Black Friday. This out-of-control passion and behavior reveal the tyrannical hold material things have on our culture. At the same time, it shows the depravity of our self-centered, over-indulgent life styles that drive us to do just about anything to save a few dollars, buy the latest and greatest, and make sure our children have just as much as our neighbor’s children.
What can we do? How can we break free from these cultural chains – this bondage to materialism?
First, we must understand what is at stake. Money is not neutral. You may have heard it said, “money is not the problem, it’s what you do with it.” From a biblical perspective, this is not true. Jesus called consumerism a religion! He said, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13) Materialism is idolatry! We can depend on God or we can depend on money, but we cannot depend on both.
Second, as followers of Jesus, we must ask God for a change of heart – for Him to give us a passion for the things that break His heart! Jesus taught His followers, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:21) What we do with the wealth God has entrusted to us has eternal consequences.
Third, and most important, we must realize that only God can break the power of sin. Paul said, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Breaking free from materialism (the love of money) requires a titanic shift in our attitude and behavior. Such a change means the transformation of our hearts and a redirection of our devotion and worship. This kind of a radical transformation is not something we can do on our own; but remember, Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)