This year, Black Friday shopping started in the evening (or late afternoon, in some cases) on Thanksgiving Day. While different bloggers have bemoaned the irreverence of such opportunities, shoppers are most enthusiastic to embrace them. According to one report, millions converged on the nation’s Walmart stores, and more than 10 million online transactions (at walmart.com alone) prove that people want to shop early and save money.
But what’s the point. Sure, some score great deals. Fred Meyer has a crazy sock sale (that I’ve been to on multiple occasions) while Best Buy and Walmart are always giving away amazing deals on electronics. Macy’s had almost four hundred “door buster” items; almost four hundred?!
Which brings me to the point of this post. My take on Black Friday is probably different than most. I see it as a reflection of our culture, of a culture going mad. We strive to have the latest and greatest, and to pay the least for it. But what are we going after, anyway? Stuff. Just stuff. When you boil it down to it’s barest elements, the push on the day after Thanksgiving, or the evening of Thanksgiving is just to get. more. stuff.
Well, I have news for our crazy culture…stuff won’t make you happy. Stuff is fun, for a while. But the real core issues aren’t addressed or improved by having more stuff, even for a fantastic price.
Basal Pascal, in the seventeenth century, is attributed with saying “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”― Blaise Pascal, Pensées
What if Pascal was right? What if there truly is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, woman, and child? Is it possible that this “God shaped void” is partly responsible for the drive to spend money on “stuff” we see during the holiday shopping season and especially on Thanksgiving/Black Friday? Because buying more stuff doesn’t fix anything. When you get back to real life (and the credit card bills start coming in) that big screen tv isn’t going to make you feel that much better. The nice coat from Macy’s isn’t going to keep your heart from breaking over the latest argument with your significant other, nor is it going to fill your arms when you long for someone who has passed on or who doesn’t remember you anymore. Stuff doesn’t make life worth living. And filling lives with stuff doesn’t make them more valuable.
It isn’t true; you don’t win because you die with the most toys.
Last week, fights broke out all over the country as shoppers, intent on getting more stuff, pushed and shoved their way to the booty. In years past, people have died – trampled by shoppers so intent on scoring deals they didn’t realize the life was ebbing from bodies literally under their feet. Is stuff really that important? I’m guessing the family members of those who were crushed would say no.
If you had to choose between stuff and relationships, what would you choose?
I know what I’d choose, and it isn’t more stuff. This year, we didn’t go Black Friday shopping. Part of the reason is financial; we’ve been spending (lots) more on food, in an attempt to address some health issues that needed addressing (and the diet is working), so we didn’t have much to spend on other things. But the biggest reason was a simple realization that we don’t need more stuff. We just don’t. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say most (if not all) of those shopping on Black Friday didn’t either. We live in America, for goodness sake! We have plenty of food (obviously – the nation has an obesity epidemic, and I’ve been right up there with the best of them). We have warm places to live, even if people find themselves without a home temporarily. We have plenty to wear (and some of us spend outrageous amounts on little bits of material). Compared to most of the world, even the poorest of us have unimaginable wealth.
We don’t need a 52″ flat screen plasma tv, or an xbox one, or an ipad mini, or even more towels (one of the hottest items at Walmart, apparently). We need Jesus.
Jesus will fill the void in the heart of even the loneliest person. Jesus will bring comfort in our deepest pain. Jesus brings hope in the darkest moments. Jesus is way better than “stuff.”