Honest questions: how can or should Christians understand and approach Black Friday (or Canada’s corresponding Boxing Day/Week)? How do these mass movements of (excessive) consumption relate to biblical teaching on justice and stewardship?
I see a few common options (all of which have biblical support of some sort):
Black Friday is…
- a chance to make frugal/wise use of our money - saving is good, right!?!
- not related to faith and spirituality whatsoever.
- okay as long we’re not greedy.
- should be avoided altogether (even if we then buy the same products another time, perhaps at another sale).
- okay as long as we give on Tuesday as a way to assuage the guilt of overspending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- should lead us to speak out against economic injustice and inequality.
I'll admit, I don’t have a clear sense of how to respond to cultural events such as Black Friday. I lean towards not being greedy and speaking out when possible (hence this blog post!). But saving money is good thing, right? But is it the only thing? Maybe another question is to ask what are we saving money on? Are we buying into (literally) an unjust economic system of excess that is contrary to the way of Jesus? Stewardship, then, isn’t just about saving money, but having a posture of trust in God and care and concern for others, themes emphasized consistently throughout scripture (e.g. Micah 6:8; Isaiah 58:6-12; Mt. 6:19-34; Mt. 19:16-22).
I’ll conclude with a thought-provoking (and convicting) quote from the book Kingdom Ethics (while written in an American context, the ideas apply far beyond the U.S):
“Christians living in the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, the powerhouse of global capitalism, are daily subjected to the most sophisticated enticements ever devised--enticements not just to buy certain products but to buy into a certain way of looking at and living life. It is a way of life that ascribes inordinate value to the acquisition of material goods and indeed thrives based on the creation of new ‘needs’ and then cut-throat competition to fulfill those ‘needs.’ If Christian ethics is following Jesus, it must involve a clear-eyed analysis and finally repudiation of an economic ethos that ratifies the ‘deceitfulness of wealth’ and makes Mammon a national idol.
This is no mere theoretical preference. As I write I think of lives ruined by this ethos: those who deteriorate into essentially soul-less creatures pursuing the latest goodies with zombie-like intensity; those who have no access to adequate work and no way of provide for their families; those around the world who live in squalor and misery; those whose lives could be turned around by a small commitment on the part of unhappily prosperous people who will never pause from their quest for the latest redemptive gadget to consider the needs of the least of these. This latter is a condition that has been called ‘affluence,’ and according to Jesus, it is terminal.”
Glas Stassen and David P. Gushie, Kingdom Ethics