Black Friday: When Materialism Turns Into Idolatry

Black Friday is the culmination of idolatrous consumerism.  Not because someone wants to shop for a discounted item, but because of the underlying demeanor in the build-up and unraveling of Black Friday.

I confess, I do not have much Black Friday experience…  Last year we made the mistake of going to the local mall on Friday after Thanksgiving sometime in the mid morning, only to turn back home because we could not find parking.   Apparently you had to be there before dawn to get in line.  There are places where lines form days in advance!  These people sacrifice the Thanksgiving holiday and a night in a warm bed for a terribly unpleasant shopping experience.

Why?  Because they will save $200 dollars on a deal?   The average amount spent by the average Black Friday shopper is less than $400, so will a $200 saving really make that much difference in their lives?  In order to answer this question lets look at the things that happen during shopping on Black Friday because they help elucidate who we are as humans.

Shoppers get into a mindless and manic frenzy to the point where an apparel store can look like a category 4 hurricane just went through it.  In the busy stores one can see anger, greed and self elevation at the worst.  It starts with shoving, shouting, and it progresses to cursing, verbal fights, and fist fights.  In extreme cases there have been reports of shoppers and vendors being crushed, stepped on, and it seems like every year we hear reports of fatalities as a result of stampedes and lack of crowd control.  All for an average of $400 of merchandise!

At the core of the issue is human depravity and the worship of self.  The shopper is tricked into thinking it is all about “me, myself and I.”  The goal of the entire Black Friday exercise becomes less about buying a certain item, but beating out your competition to that item!  In some situations, pushing and stepping on another human being becomes part of the process… but it matters not, the depraved shopper must beat his competitor at all cost.

Greed coupled with anger is one of the most potent evil combinations of all human emotions and we see it on display during Black Friday Idolatry.  I call it idolatry because it comes down to serving, satisfying and elevating the self.  It all started with the fall of man after he was created perfect in the image of God.  Man was tempted with becoming just like the One who deserves to receive all worship, and the temptation proved too much.  And on Black Friday we are still dealing with the consequences of appeasing, elevating, and worshiping the self as exemplified by the demeanor and actions of the shoppers.

So, should Christians go and compete in the long lines and spend their $400 today?  If you do, just remember that you do not belong to this world and you must act that way.  Remember that lost people will act lost no matter what the situation, so do not be surprised when you see individuals fighting over that $199 “complete” home theater system, or that discounted video game.  You will see human depravity on display which will remind you where you once were before the Holy Spirit led you to the new birth.

Think of Black Friday as an opportunity to see how God has rescued you from this materialistic and idolatrous world, and how He made you realize that all glory and worship belongs to Him.

“whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1Cor 10:31

12 comments on “Black Friday: When Materialism Turns Into Idolatry

  1. It makes me ill that Black Friday is ironically linked to a holiday in which Americans express their gratitude for and contentment with God’s blessings.

    I’m struck with sadness at the thought of these annual celebrations ( Thanksgiving and Christmas ) of complete commercialization and consumerism.

  2. @Manuela and Chris,

    Sadly true.  How the nation has changed from the days of it’s founding
    George Washington:   3 October 1789:
    “Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection…”

    • Matt, it’s fascinating to read the proclamation in the above link. I’ve had some debates with some atheists who claim that many if not most of the founding fathers were not Christians, that they were just theists or deists. That is they believed in a god who created the universe and mankind, but this god does not interfere here on earth. Creation sort of has its own course, etc…

      Now, reading Washington’s proclamation I can see that he describes some biblical attributes to the God he references, but he does not go as far as to mention that he is the Triune God revealed in Scripture, and of course he does not mention the name of Jesus.

      From my research I tend to believe that Washington may have been a Christian, but a very private one. He certainly references God in public documents, just like Obama does, but sometimes I wonder if he did it just to appease a Christian country.

      What are your thoughts on this? Have you come across any evidence where he confesses the name of Jesus?

      **update** I found this reference

      “You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.”

      George Washington’s Speech to Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779, in John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. XV (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), p. 55.

      • Chris, good find on Washington.  At one point, some years back, I spent some time researching various founding fathers in an effort to determine their faith.  Of course, in such an effort we are limited to documented statements which could be made for political gain, but that’s all we have in most cases.  In my research efforts I came to the conclusion that George Washington seemed likely to have sincerely been a Christian.  I think James Madison was another about whom I drew the same conclusion, and perhaps Patrick Henry.  There were others who clearly made statements in contradiction to Christian faith:  Thomas Jefferson (probably a theist), Benjamin Franklin (perhaps a deist), and Thomas Paine (apparent hater of Christianity).  

        I think there is a lot of evidence that the founders of this country had no intent for a ‘separation of church and state’ as we see proclaimed today.  I have heard it claimed, and don’t have reason to doubt, that something like 80+% of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were professing Christians.  Although this isn’t the same as saying I can find documented evidence that they have correct Christian beliefs leading tosalvation.

        I find it sadly amazing that our schools teach George Washington as the father of our country, but then basically outlaw everything he ever said from history books as violating the constitution of the country he’s supposed to be the father of….try to his farewell address to the nation in a public school…

  3. Delight, please tell me how you reblogged your own blog post. And why. Just curious. 😉

    Also, some Aussie trivia for you. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. We have no ‘Black Friday. We do have a ‘Black Saturday’ but it refers to the day back in 2009 when there were terrible bushfires near where I live. We do, however, have idolatry AND materialism here. (Tell Gabe, he’ll be amazed). Our big sale day is on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas Day. The behaviour is pretty much the same. So you see, as backward as people (yes, you Gabe) might think we are, we really are as depraved a society as you are. Actually, probably more because we already have socialized medicine.

    And I confess I have experienced a twinge or two of Thanksgiving envy. We used to celebrate it with our American friends as a kid. I was in New York in 2008 for Thanksgiving. Beautiful weather, best turkey ever. I was most thankful. 🙂

    • Boxing day? lol. Nice name for it…

      I reblogged the post because this is the only way to repost my own post (save for copy and paste text). I wrote the article last year on Black Friday and I saw that it was getting hits as people were searching for “black friday.” So I thought it would be useful to reuse the piece.

      You click the reblogg button at the top of the screen and voila!

  4. Great discussion above. I agree with Matt that Thomas Jefferson was probably a theist since he wrote his own Bble and took all of the miracles out. I also tend to think of George Washington as a Christian. Chris’ quote about is a good indication. There has been much speculation on this as, I’m sure you’re aware, he had ties to the Masons.

    As to black Friday, I have been to one like the one described above when I lived in California. It was the year Teddy Ruxpin was the hot toy. We were going to look for a refridgerator and I remember adults acting like a bunch of poor people who hadn’t eaten in days.

    I haven’t been out for years, but my wife a daughter always go. The thing starts earlier every year and they go out later every year. They report that there was no behavior here as described above yesterday while they were out. Who knows what happened in the middle of the night as some stores opened all night long. You won’t find any of us out there at that crazy hour. My wife said that in the afternoon it was very busy at Belk, but the people were civil.

    There is no question that: “Black Friday is the culmination of idolatrous consumerism.” Next is Chrismas and it may be worse on one of those days, but you won’t find me out shopping as my wife usually shops after Christmas. She just showed me our Christmas cards for this year. After Christmas she got them at a 90% discount. We have really cut down on gift giving, but most of the small gifts that we do give are purchased on sale during the year.

    The commercialism of both holidays has made me wonder just how “Christian” America is. I’ve thought now, for quite some time, that the majoritiy of the Churches here are not preaching the Word. Mr. Halley, who passed away quite awhile back, saw this decades ago and was so concerned he began working on the Handbook that most of us know so well. I hope this doesn’t sound like a broken record as I may have mentioned this here before, but I wouldn’t go to 2/3rds of the churches in the county in which I live because they wouldn’t take a stand against abortion.

    Enough rambling. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving with family as I was blessed to be able to go to my Dad and Mom’s for the holiday.

    It’s always good to see when sherryn stops by. I’m happy to hear that she has had a positive Thanksgiving experience in America.

    God’s blessings all…

    • Chris, thanks for your thoughts… Always appreciated… Maybe Cali is worse when it comes to consumerism, but I just watched a video compilation about Black Friday mishaps from the across the country and oh, my…. People are nuts, that’s all I have to say.

      I hope you had a good Thanksgiving with all your family as well!

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