Every year Americans kick off the Christmas season by heading out to the stores to score some deals on what has come to be known as “Black Friday,” and this year will be no different. Before that day hits us at the end of the week, however, there are a few things I hope that we as Christians will consider and take to heart:
1. The timing of “Black Friday” couldn’t be more ironic if we wanted it to be.
Seriously– it’s almost laughable. The day after we supposedly pause to be grateful for what we have, we revert to alternate personalities by camping out in the Walmart parking lot and throwing punches over Cabbage Patch Kids? That doesn’t sound very thankful to me. This year, may we consider what thankfulness and contentment really look like.
2. We are called to be people who are different than the world around us.
The word “holy” means “different” or “set apart,” and as Christians, we’re called to be a testimony to a God who is different than anything in all creation, by living differently than everything else in all creation. This means that Jesus followers are invited to opt out of the American consumerism way of living, and to strive for a more simple way– one that doesn’t need to always be consuming.
3. Our Black Friday behavior might be greed, and greed is the second most condemned sin in all of scripture.
Greed is simply defined by the “selfish and excessive desire for more,” and sadly, this is a very accurate way to describe the bulk of American culture. Unfortunately, this selfish desire to always have more is something the bible calls idolatry– meaning as Christians, we must shed off greed wherever we find it in our lives. This year, may we purchase what we need but resist the desire to always have the next best thing, and to have more of it.
4. The Bible teaches that whatever possessions we own should be modest.
When Paul warns about modesty in the Bible, he goes as far as saying that we must not even wear “costly apparel” (1 Tim 2:9-10). Sure, God wants us to have our needs met, but he doesn’t want us to flaunt it or have in excess. Whatever we purchase, we should purchase in a way that is modest– we don’t need the biggest and best of everything; that’s not modest at all. Christians should be the people who are content, not the people need to have the biggest and best wide-screen television.
5. Remember, you won’t be taking any of the stuff you buy with you.
1 Timothy 6 warns us against the pursuit of “things” and reminds us of the ultimate truth: all this stuff is staying when you go. I think one of the most eye opening truths someone has ever told me was the reminder that everything I now own will one day be sold at a lawn sale for a couple of bucks. Why? It’s just stuff, and it’s not going with us when we die. We’re far better off to practice a detachment from “things” in the right here, right now.
6. Think about the poor around us who look to us to model the Kingdom of God.
On Thursday, many of the poor in America will spend the day like any other day, as big Thanksgiving meals just aren’t in the cards financially. Tracy and I will be having some African immigrants over to our house who otherwise would not have much of a meal– $140 in food stamps does not go very far. What kind of “Christian” message do we send to the poor when they can barely eat, but we can spend thousands of dollars on Black Friday? Whatever message it sends, let me tell you, it’s the wrong one.
7. Consider the message our Black Friday consumerist behavior might send to our children.
Are we teaching our children that life is all about having a lot of “stuff” or are we teaching them that there are a host of more important things in life? Furthermore, when we shower our children with too much “stuff” we usher them into a consumerist, “enough is never enough” way of living that can haunt them in adulthood. Let’s teach them that enough, actually is, enough.
8. While we’re out amassing stuff on Black Friday, people around the world will die from causes that you and I could help prevent if we’d spend our money differently.
On Black Friday, the following will happen: over 9,000 people will die from lack of clean water, over 21,000 will die from hunger, and thousands more will die from other causes that would largely be preventable if the world’s rich (you and I) would spend our money on people instead of things. Consider taking some of the money you’d spend on Black Friday and giving it to a reputable charity.
9. Remember the words of Jesus: “wherever your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”
This principle is easy: the more money you spend on things, the more you love things. The more you spend your money on people, the more you love people. The option for a Jesus follower should be an easy call to make– we must invest in people while rejecting the need for more “things.”
10. Jesus never asked us to buy a bunch of crap for his birthday.
Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Christ– a homeless Rabbi who famously told one of his disciples to sell everything and give it to the poor– the same Rabbi who taught that those who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome immigrants, will not go to heaven. Loading up on the latest electronics and spending our money on more things for ourselves, is perhaps the most utterly insulting way we could celebrate the birth of someone who lived and taught simplicity and generosity.
This year, may we– the people of Jesus– live differently than the world around us. May we reject the need for excess material possessions, may we embrace lives of simplicity and generosity, and may we remember that loving people should always be more important that having more “things.”