I have a love-hate relationship with Black Friday.
On one hand, the deals are great and it certainly helps with the Christmas present budget. But on the other hand, Black Friday has also become our unofficial “National Day Of Covetousness” where we bow down to the United States’ favorite idol, the Almighty Materialism.
The crescendo of our idolatrous revelry comes sometime in the wee-hours of the morning as millions of the faithful storm into our retail temples, trampling the tender, shoving the slower and celebrating the gospel of the “first shall be first and the last shall be last”, gleefully laying down our cash sacrifices upon the altar.
Those images of stampeding shoppers they play on the news every year kind of turns my stomach. Massive herds of people, eyes wide with materialistic hysteria, driven to the edge of madness by the insatiable desire to get more for less before anyone else does.
There are just all kinds of things wrong with that, but that is not the point of this article.
The point of this article is the encouragement I have gotten this year that perhaps the darkest hour of night has passed and we are seeing a lighter shade of Black Friday dawn upon us.
As I tuned in to my preferred news sources the morning of Black Friday to take the temperature of the retail sector in relation to the sky-high expectations the industry was prophesying for this holiday season, I was taken aback not by the usual mobs and mayhem, but by the relative calm and orderliness being seen in stores around the country.
As reported by Bloomberg, “Many malls reported a late-arriving crowd on Friday. And shoppers that did show up early were pleasantly surprised by the relative calm…The frenzy of Black Friday as we knew it is over…We are watching the next edition of Black Friday, a more civilized and opportunistic edition.”
Now, I’m not wearing my “today-only sale-price 89% off rose-colored glasses”. I know the absence of mobs and trampling incidents does not necessarily equal a diminishing of national covetousness. Nonetheless, I am thankful for such a development and consider it a very positive sign, and even a shimmer of God’s common grace and mercy upon our collective consumer culture.
And, despite the smaller and more civilized crowds, retailers are still posting record numbers as they see increased online transactions and more focused “buying” rather than “shopping” in their brick-and-mortar locations. In other words, the shoppers coming in the doors know what they want, buy it, and go home, rather than shoppers who show up, stick around and walk out hours later without anything in their bags.
“They’re not just shopping, they’re buying — they’re on a mission,” said Craig Johnson, president of research firm Consumer Growth Partners.
And more people are choosing to buy online rather than get up early, brave the cold and dark, wait in line and fight the crowds. I can’t say that I blame them!
All this to say that while American Materialism is still alive and kicking, as evidenced by the record sales numbers at retailers such as Kohl’s, who registered an all time spending high on Thanksgiving Day, and massive online numbers north of $6.5 billion on Black Friday, which is bigger than last year’s Cyber Monday online spending stats, let alone last year’s Black Friday online haul, we are perhaps seeing a turn of the tide.
Perhaps the subduing of materialist mayhem this Black Friday is the first glimmer of a brighter future for the hearts of our nation’s consumers. Maybe the masses are seeing the danger and damage that comes from exalting stuff and self above others and honor.
Or maybe people were still just digesting their Thanksgiving turkey.
So, to you, the “rich in this present age”, I echo the words of Paul and charge you “…to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for [yourselves] as a good foundation for the future, so that [you] may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
May God grant you (and me!) the grace to seek Him first this Christmas season, to give more than we get, to spend ourselves for the gospel instead of spending our dollars for stuff, and to treasure Christ above all else.
Robert Netzly is the CEO of Inspire Investing and frequent contributor on FOX, Bloomberg, New York Times and other major media. Read more from Robert in his #1 bestselling book Biblically Responsible Investing, available at Amazon.com and other major retailers.