Historically speaking, I’ve been someone who has been anti-materialism, anti-consumerism, and by extension, anti-Black Friday.
And, why not? After setting aside a day to be thankful for what we have, thousands of us actually leave the Thanksgiving table and set up camp in the Walmart parking lot prior to the annual stampede to get the newest gadget? It makes sense that so many people would push back against that kind of hysteria. Certainly for me– someone trying to live my life patterned after a homeless Rabbi– there’s so much about Black Friday to find utterly revolting.
With all the gluttony, materialism, and punch-throwing in aisle 4 (which is no longer labeled by gender, ugh!) I’ve historically taken a total abstinence position regarding Black Friday. In recent years however, I’ve come to realize that such an all-or-nothing position was both wrong and influenced by my own privilege (it was easier for me to abstain from buying on that day than it is/was for others who perhaps couldn’t afford to boycott Black Friday).
This realization came to me last year, when for the first time in nearly a decade, I found myself shopping on Black Friday.
You see, money was really tight for us and I desperately needed a new winter coat before the cold weather hit. I had been stretching the years with my old one, but it was certainly time to replace it. When Black Friday came, we saw an advertisement where the jacket I really needed was on sale. It was quality made and would last me several years, a style that would work for both casual and more formal situations, and it was a really, really good deal. It was a $280 dollar jacket (which I never could afford or justify owning at label price), but between the Black Friday deal and a coupon we used, I was able to get the jacket I needed for under $30.
As I looked at the receipt and went through the breakdown of discounts, I realized that my hard-core stance against Black Friday had missed a critical component: sometimes, shopping on Black Friday could actually be the right choice, and a godly way to manage one’s finances.
I believe that God wants us to live generously, and one of the primary ways we accomplish this is by wise stewardship of how little or how much we have. Sometimes, using our money wisely so that we have more resources to give away, means we might actually get in our car at 5:00am and go shopping on Black Friday (as much as my first instinct is to cringe at that statement).
I also remembered that we, as Christians, come from a rich heritage of other Christians who found objectionable practices in culture and reclaimed them for God. Even the celebration of Christmas itself is such an example.
Instead of simply disengaging culture, these Christians who walked before us found ways to turn otherwise objectionable elements of their culture into a tool they used for good. I see no reason why American Christians cannot still faithfully object to our culture’s materialism and gluttony, while also finding ways to make Black Friday a tool that is used for good.
There’s an old Proverb that says, “money is a good servant, but a horrible master” and I think that’s quite fitting for how we as Christians might approach Black Friday. If the materialism and consumerism of Black Friday masters us, obviously that’s the wrong direction for a Jesus follower. But, if using Black Friday as a tool to manage our finances responsibly, and even as a way to save so that we have more money to invest in God’s Kingdom, then shopping on Black Friday could actually be good, wise, and godly.
My prayer for us this week is that we’ll be focused on thankfulness and contentment as we kick off the holiday season.
Yet, as Black Friday arrives, I would caution fellow Christians from considering only two extremes: consumerism or abstinence.
There is in fact, a third-option, and a middle-ground to being a Christian on Black Friday.
This middle-ground is to use Black Friday as a tool to honor God through wise stewardship of our financial resources, so that we have more money to invest in advancing the Kingdom.