Black Friday Eve (aka Thanksgiving)

At dinner this evening, a friend of mine pointed out the irony in Black Friday following just one day after Thanksgiving. So we all sit around cozy tables surrounded by friends and family on Thursday, eating turkey and dressing, and relaxing the afternoon away either watching football or chatting with relatives we see twice a year. We view television shows, newspaper and magazine articles, and advertisements encouraging us to use this day to “be thankful” for what we have. And then we wake ourselves up at 4 in the morning so we can go get more stuff?

As I’m sure nearly all of you have read or heard, this discontented bum rush on new and better possessions ended a 34 year old life in the pre-dawn hours of Friday morning. At least 200 people trampled a Walmart employee as he attempted to prevent the chaos that ended up killing him. The eager shoppers literally crashed through windows and broke down metal doors and by the time security and fellow employees could get to him, the damage had been done. Police arrived and closed down the store…oh, and by the way, some shoppers argued and whined about the store closing because they had been in line waiting for hours to get in the store. Praise God that I wasn’t one of those police officers fielding complaints, or more violence may have ensued.

I’m so angry and saddened, and I have so many thoughts running through my head that I’m not entirely confident this will come out coherently. But nevertheless, there are a bunch of things that can be said.

It’s a sad commentary on this country’s (and the propensity in each one of our human hearts) love affair and enslavement to consumerism, materialism, greed, and self-centeredness (you don’t see “love affair” and “enslavement” closely associated often, but it couldn’t be more true). We’re greedy, we’re discontent, we’re never satisifed, we want more. Who cares what we were thankful for yesterday…what matters is getting what I want and need today.

We’re also incredibly self-centered. Not with malicious intent usually, but selfish nonetheless. I doubt anyone meant to trample the employee, I doubt anyone wanted him to die. But the fact is that their selfishness, their desire to get to that 50″ Plasma on sale for $900 before the middle aged man next to them, blinded them to the concerns of anyone else around them. This isn’t the only place this happens, you and I see it and do it everyday. Have you ever noticed how at Walmart people will exit the front doors and walk across the street towards their car mind-numbingly slow, as if no one were sitting in their own car waiting patiently at the crosswalk? And cutting across at a 90 degree angle is no good, no, they prefer the 30 degree angle. The one that is the most direct path to their car, which turns an 8 second walk into a 20 second one. They’re not intentionally trying to be a self-centered jerk, they’re just so caught up in their own world they never begin to consider the needs and desires of anyone else.

And before you or I try to hop up on our high horse, let us remember, we’re not really that different. Maybe we wouldn’t break through a window to get to a new TV at Walmart. Okay, I’ll grant you that. But the selfishness and materialism eats at your heart, just like it does mine, just like it did in those people at the Long Island Walmart Friday morning. What small differences we have with them, if any, is only of degree, not of true substance.

And yes, it’s ironic to think of the spirit of Thanksgiving (be thankful, peaceful, content) contrasted with the spirit of Black Friday (get the bleep out of my way, I want, I want, I want, gimme, gimme, gimme!!!). How could people so quickly forget the one and turn to the other?

And yet this is the pattern we see in the Old Testament, over and over again. God rescues Israel from Egypt and parts a large body of water — Israel whines about not having food. God provides food that appears upon the ground every morning — Israel whines that they don’t have any water. God makes water pour out of a big rock — Israel makes a golden calf because Moses has been gone too long.

But the pattern exists in our lives as well. A song touches my heart at church, and I am moved to worship God with my life — I leave church and fall back into whatever sin I usually struggle with. The sermon on a Sunday morning convicts me and awakens in me a desire to read my bible more, to serve my wife more fervently — by Monday I’ve forgotten all about it, serving myself only, and forgetting altogether where my bible even is.

We all have moments of inspiration, where we vow to be more faithful, more disciplined, better fathers, better wives, better students of God’s word. And yet, the vast majority of the time this high lasts an hour or two, and then life is back to normal.

So consider this blog a call to mourn with and pray for our culture that is so greedy and selfish. Pray for the family of the man who was killed, pray for the men and women whose feet contributed to his terrible death.

Be humbled that we’re really only different in degree. You and I are selfish and greedy too. Thank God for restraining those sins within our hearts, as he undoubtedly does.

And be challenged to be holy, to be different, to be set apart for our God. To be a light to the world around us, to take a stand against the selfishness and discontent and materialism that is creeping at your door, waiting to consume you. To identify where you struggle with self-centeredness and greed, and fight.

And be thankful. Thankful that God is gracious. That he is willing to forgive you for your selfishness and your materialism. And that someday those who trust in him will live in a world free of the greed and self-centeredness that pervades our world. Amen.

(P.S. Just a word of disclaimer: I was at our local Walmart tonight, partially checking out some of the deals. I’m not condemning shopping, or bargain-hunting. Just the sinful desires that manifest themselves in different ways…including what we saw yesterday.)

*Originally posted Nov. 29, 2008

One Comment

  1. John Whipple said:

    Well stated! This is a good challenge to be holy, to be different, to be set apart” for special use by God.
    JLW

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