From the Archives: Black Friday and Our Character

With holidays both in the United States and my country of residence this week, blog reading this wee is a bit slower, so I’m taking the opportunity to break from most writing this week by providing some reads from the archives. Enjoy!

It’s here! That moment that you’ve been waiting for all year. It’s that moment when stores open at 5:00am (or earlier . . . as much as a week earlier these days) to the crowds of people who are camping (literally) outside their doors, and have been doing so for days. The craze of Black Friday has arrived. It’s a day in which the true colors of our culture shine brightly, plastered across news stations for all the world to see. It is something that we should be more distressed than dignified by. Something that we should be more humiliated than dignified by.

Black Friday began in the United States, being traced to Philadelphia in the 1960’s. It was not uncommon by this point to create attention and draw people into the stores, but seeing that discounts brought shoppers in by the droves, Philadelphia began a tradition that took shopping to a whole new level. In fact, Black Friday has become a phenomenon that now warrants its own webpage devoted solely to it and no longer permeates just the United States, but has infiltrated other countries, such as Canada and England as well.

In fact, Black Friday is so big, ABC News maintains live coverage of the events online. Days before the grand events began, it was anticipated that nearly 100 million people would take part in Black Friday, and another 26 million would even begin their shopping on Thanksgiving itself. It is certain that very few families remain unimpacted by this spectacular phenomenon.

And while the multitudes took part in this event, it reveals something greater about the character of our culture. It reveals the heart attitude of our culture. In fact, it could be said that Black Friday reveals a black heart. As we examine this, there are three areas that bring this into greater focus:

  • Covetousness: Target indicated that between 6pm-8pm on Thanksgiving, they were selling 1,800 televisions per minute. With 15,000 people lining up outside of Macy’s in New York City, it is clear that our worship is around the material things of this world. When we forsake time with others in order to spend days wrapped up in tents and blankets in order to get our hands on the latest technology or the shiniest piece of jewelry, I would say this is idolatry. If it is not full-blown idolatry, at the very minimum, it is on the verge of becoming so.
  • Selfishness: In London, pictures emerged of fistfights between people, toppling to the floor over televisions at an Asda superstore. In Tustin, CA, two women were arrested and another victim sent to the hospital after a fight broke out. This is not selflessness, but selfishness. These situations are not uncommon on Black Friday, and they indicate a lack of regard for humanity. There is no care about the safety of others, but only the mentality of “Give me what I want now.” As Steve Lawson would say, that motto is “Get all you can and can all you get.”
  • Sinfulness: Of course the black heart that is being revealed is a heart of sinfulness, of which impacts all of us. This is concerning on two levels. First, for unbelievers, they will not understand the things of God, but the only way in which priorities will be rightly aligned for the good of people if those unbelievers are first rightly aligned with God. Second, for believers. For believers, who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, participation in arguments and fights over material things further impacts the testimony of Christ in a negative manner. The events of Black Friday reveal the depths of sin in which our culture is entrenched at its most significant levels.

Is it wrong for Christians to participate in Black Friday promotions? By all means no. For many, this is as much of a time of fellowship than it is of bargain hunting. Likewise, it seems reasonable to take advantage of these deals, using them to our benefit. Some would say that this is good stewardship even. The greater concern though is when Black Friday becomes the idol, replacing our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Therefore, it’s important for us to keep several things in the framework of our Christian worldview.

  1. Impact on Others: By participating, it is not only about you, but you are also impacting others. There are those that must forsake their time in order to come serve you at the store. Likewise, when you participate in the anger, violence-oriented mob mentality that directly harms others (whether by words or actions).
  2. Impact on Us: While it can be said that participating creates unnecessary stress on you, that could have been avoided, but even more, it impacts our relationship with people. Often it means forsaking our time with people in order to go shopping. Often times, the frustration and stress carry over to our relationship with others.
  3. Impact on God: First off, there is always the testimony of God that must be considered. What kind of impact will your actions have for the cause of Christ? But also, what does it say about your relationship with Him? Are you forsaking your relationship with Him in order to obtain material things?

One of the concerns that should be had is not so much about just Black Friday, but the fact that it is no longer Black Friday, but also extended over into Thursday. So everything mentioned in 1,2, & 3 above is not just an impact on Friday, but spills over to the previous day, which in the United States is Thanksgiving. So when people are being called into work so that you can shop, it begins to take time away from family, something that Thursday was reserved for. This is troublesome because it shows where priorities lay. We value material things over our family, so much so, we are not only willing to sacrifice our own Thanksgiving time with them, but also others’ time. Ultimately, when the family unit breaks down under attack, everything else begins to follow.

Again, is it wrong to participate in Black Friday? Of course not. But our priorities must be kept in check. The focus should be God-oriented first. It also means being careful that eyes fixated on the deals don’t take our eyes off the Deity.

Photo “Black Friday” courtesy of user Powhusku and Flickr.