I’m struck by the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving — a season of reflection and gratitude — and the ubiquitous commercialism of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday”. According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers spent over $45 billion shopping on Friday, an average of $365 spent per shopper. An estimated 106 million Americans made online purchases on “Cyber Monday”, capping off a four-day spending frenzy that further validates our cultural materialism.
Our culture tells us that one’s affection for another can best be measured by the metric of the dollar. Valentine’s Day is all about this: roses, chocolates, teddy bears, etc. The whole “holiday” is predicated on the idea that you have to show your love in financial terms. I guess there’s something to be said for making your loved one feel special and all. But when you take the cumulative view (birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc.), how special do we really need to feel?
This year, Sunny and I went Black Friday shopping. We did the majority of our shopping for our kids at Target, braving the early hour cold and the crowds to secure a few “choice” items for our brood. As we were walking out, we noticed the receipt. At the bottom, in bold font:
Thank you for shopping at Target. Today you saved $________.
I thought to myself, “Wow. We really had to spend a lot to save that much money.”
In this season of excess, the people of God reject the false gods of consumerism and materialism and we embrace the economy of God’s Kingdom: an economy of faith, hope, love; the fruit of the Spirit; justice, mercy, humility.
In God’s economy, character and integrity are of greater value than your investment portfolio.
In God’s economy, our value is linked to our role as God’s image-bearer, not our net worth.
A 2004 study by Craig Blomberg revealed that if every church member in the United States actually gave 10% of their income to the church, this generosity would generate an additional $86 billion for world missions. How many hungry mouths could be fed with $86 billion? How many malaria nets could be purchased? How many Bibles could we distribute? How many homes could be built? How many communicable and water-born diseases could be prevented?
And we’re all too busy buying iPods and contentment.
When will we learn what Paul teaches in Philippians 4.11: I have learned to be content in all circumstances?
When will we learn to say what David confessed in the 23rd Psalm: If the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want?
When will we look to those around us and say, “Your needs are greater than our wants”?
The gods of this age try to get us focused on the wrong kind of materialism during the holiday season. Greed, consumption, acquisition…all in an effort to build bigger barns. The great irony is that the season is truly about a different kind of materialism — the “materialism” of the Incarnation, Jesus come to earth, as John says, “The Word become flesh”. The Christian community celebrates this season brimming with hope, resplendent with the truth that God — our God — is once and forever with us in Christ Jesus. This is the materialism that really matters, God wrapped in flesh and in our midst.
I guess we all need to be a little more “materialistic” after all.