I’ve never made a big deal of Black Friday. This is mostly because I don’t have it in me to wait in line for hours in the cold to get a TV. Look, I understand the appeal, I really do. But I understand more deeply the appeal of my mattress and warmth, and I’ve always had an aversion to engaging in a scuffle at Best Buy. We’ve all heard the stories of death and injury from over-eager, crazed shoppers fighting and clawing to get the best door buster deal, and I don’t want to appear on the evening news because some middle school kid got to the latest Super Mario Bros game before I did. (Mario is still a legitimate gaming character, right?) I decided I’d go the safe route and go to a bookstore for their crazy Black Friday deals. They’re wild.
I figured not a lot of people would stand outside Half Price Books on Friday morning, so I grudgingly got out of bed and rolled into the parking lot at 6:45 AM. There were already over 120 people in line. For a $5 gift card. Seriously. I didn’t get the gift card, but I went home with some consolation in knowing there are bigger nerds out there than me.
At our annual family Thanksgiving dinner, my uncle quipped that Black Friday is when we trample over each other to get cheap stuff exactly one day after being thankful for everything we already have. It’s a cute line, but I think it points to a deeper issue: consumerism and materialism are the altars at which we worship. The United States has never been a “Christian nation,” but we’ve always flirted with the goddess of “stuff.” Thanksgiving isn’t even over before retail employees have to report to their workplaces to prepare for the madness of Black Friday, some even opening Thanksgiving night. It’s been said that the day after Thanksgiving has been called “Black Friday” because, as the first official shopping day for the Christmas holiday, it is typically the day that most retailers begin turning a profit on their merchandise, going from being “in the red” to “black” in their ledgers. But this definition is more recent than the original, darker implications of the name. Black Friday. It isn’t just a happen-chance, economic term.
There isn’t anything wrong with Black Friday shopping at all! If you have the strength and energy, and more importantly, if you have the funds, to wait and get a great deal on electronics or clothes or other goods, go for it. I’m slightly envious of the massive TV you got for the amount of money I spend on coffee in a year. I like new stuff. I love my new iPhone 5 (sorry Fandroids, I jumped ship). But Black Friday, the day that kick starts the festivities for Christmas, when we celebrate our Savior’s birth, is an indictment on how materialistic, consumerist-ic, and selfish we are every day. We’ll spend money we barely have for stuff we hardly need. Stuff that becomes more obsolete, more worn, and less valuable the moment we get it. E-readers make a joke out of my library of physical books. Technology evolves and improves at an exponential rate every second. Fashion trends change every season. And credit card debt is more of a problem now for Americans than ever before. We build treasuries of stuff that are on their way to the garbage dump. We gather treasures that are destroyed by moth and rust and stolen by thieves.
But there’s another Friday that also has a special designation on our calendars. Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday, the day most Christians set apart to remember the day Jesus of Nazareth was crucified upon a Roman cross. That Friday, a truly black Friday, was the day when the Son of God willingly submitted to injury and death, absorbing the wrath of God meant for rebellious sinners. Sinners who disobey the authority of the trinitarian God of the universe, who have affections that are prone to wander, who worship the created things instead of the One who created everything. Sinners who deserved the punishment of a holy God. On that black Friday, God showed the extent of His love for fallen people whose counterfeit gods are money, image, sex and self, by allowing sinless Jesus to die — but not letting death have the final victory. Three days later, Jesus showed His power and authority over even death by His resurrection, proving Himself as the Savior of a needy world, saving them from their sin and death. And that is why we call that black Friday “Good Friday,” because on that day, the “red” in our ledger of righteousness and right standing before God the Father has been wiped clean by the red of the blood of Jesus Christ. That Friday signaled our crossing from being “in the red” to moving into “the black” and into the everlasting Kingdom of God. We don’t have to be enslaved to consumerism and materialism and selfishness and idolatry. We don’t have to hoard treasures that will either rot or get stolen. We’ve been saved to amass treasures in heaven that can’t be destroyed by moth or rust, or stolen.
I hope you got good deals on Black Friday. I hope they still hold your attention. But more so, I hope you’re not looking to satisfy yourself with stuff, because trinkets and clothes and goods won’t satisfy the deepest desires of your heart. You can’t purchase your way into the Kingdom of God. Satisfy your soul with the One who has purchased you.