Holidays are religious; at least they used to be. “Holy days” gave people opportunities to honor God’s great deeds, reflect on their responsibilities and shortcomings, or praise the Lord for their blessings.
Some holidays, like Passover and Christmas, go back centuries, even millennia. Others, like Thanksgiving, are more recent. President Abraham Lincoln established it as national holiday in 1863. And don’t forget Festivus, which Frank Costanza announced to the world in the 1990s!
As a child, I was accustomed to three or four events which ended the year: Halloween on October 31, Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, and Christmas on December 25. (I grew up in a Catholic town that had a decent Jewish population, so Hanukkah decorations were widespread, too.)
Have you noticed how, at least for businesses, Halloween has taken over October? Everywhere you see ads filled with pumpkins and monsters. Similarly, Santa and gift-giving pervade every commercial in December. (Although the politically correct go with “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas.”) So Thanksgiving owns November, right?
No! It’s being challenged by Black Friday. Early in the morning the day after Thanksgiving, people line up outside of locked stores waiting for a chance to get once-a-year deals. It’s the day to find the best deals for Christmas.
Some folks pitch tents to secure their spots in line. Stores reciprocate by pushing their hours earlier and earlier. A 10 AM opening becomes 6 which becomes midnight. Other stores decide that the evening of Thanksgiving Day is preferable. The holiday has been cut in half. Best to eat turkey for lunch because you may spend dinnertime at the mall!
Thanksgiving is disappearing as Black Friday begins to merge with Cyber Monday and expands to Black November. The growth of online shopping facilitates this development. Why bother to fight the crowds when you can get most of the same deals on the web? And businesses reciprocate. Why limit sales to one or two days? The longer the specials last, the more customers will buy things.
So Black Friday has become the newest American holiday and, like Halloween and Christmas, covers an entire month.
Holidays express cultural values. Valentine’s Day promotes love, the Fourth of July celebrates freedom, and Memorial Day honors those who fought and died for the country.
Christmas recalls the birth of Jesus our Savior. Santa and commercialism compete with the Lord, but as Linus pointed out, it remains Jesus’ birthday!
What’s the spiritual significance of Black Friday? It’s easy to criticize it as a materialistic version of Halloween, with godly virtues buried under an avalanche of greed and foolishness.
But consider the possibility of positive motivations. How about thriftiness? If we’re going to shop, we want to stretch our dollars as far as possible. Don’t waste money! I suspect a lot of people busy themselves on Black Friday because they want to get the most value for their money.
And don’t overlook love. We want to bless our loved ones with good gifts. Throughout the year, we see items we know they want, but the price tag puts them out of reach. Until Black Friday. (Or is it Black November?) A chance to make a purchase we believe will bless our family or friends.
How does Jesus want His followers to treat this newest unofficial American holiday?
The Lord wants you to know why you do what you do. Proverbs 14:8 (ESV) tells us that “the wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” Recognize your reasons for participating or avoiding Black Friday.
Act with wisdom.
The book of Proverbs (27:23-24) says to “know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations.” Keep tabs on what you possess; maintain what you can and replace what you need to.
Guard against greed.
Christ reminds us to “beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). No matter how great the Black Friday bargains you take advantage of, your life is greater than what you buy.
According to Paul, church leaders are to “instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). After a successful shopping spree, you might feel wealthy, and compared to others, perhaps you are. But remember to thank the Lord for your prosperity. Don’t disregard Him.
Jesus invites you to learn from Him how to handle the potential and the pitfalls of November’s consumerist climate. Don’t shop alone; always go with Christ. Use this season as a time to discover God’s perspective on money, spending, possessions, and generosity. More than the material goods you get, these lessons will bless you for a lifetime.