Black Friday Indeed

I just recently discovered that today, the official start of the holiday shopping season, is known as “Black Friday” because it supposedly represents the day when businesses move from the red to the black.

Perhaps the adjective “Black” more appropriately describes the hearts of some crazed, idolatrous shoppers who lose all sanity one day a year and show callous disregard for the well-being of others.  In a tragedy that I find difficult to comprehend, a 34-year-old Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death by eager shoppers early this morning.  The shoppers took the doors off the hinges, trampled the victim, and then kept right on blowing past him when paramedics arrived to tend to him. 

I’m all for seizing good buys.  In fact, my wife braved the crowds this morning and saved us a lot of money for the holiday season, all without treating other people like cockroaches.  Folks, when we allow the lure of material things to turn us into stampeding animals, we have lost our way.  This latest tragedy is a fitting illustration of the materialist idolatry of our age, a clear valuation of things over people.  And my guess is that the slowing economy has, to this point, only strengthened our idolatry by making us cling more tightly to what we have and what we have the power to acquire.  This calls for widespread repentance. 

Pastors, we have an opportunity in the face of an economic downturn to tell our churches that, yes, the future is uncertain, and it is that way precisely because God wants it to be that way for us.  If God allowed us to know exactly what the future holds, then we would inevitably find security in our own ability to plan for it rather than in his word of promise.  We would, like the unbelieving Israelites, seek to gather more than a day’s worth of manna at a time, rather than relying on the promise of God that adequate manna would be there tomorrow.  When faced with a financial squeeze, we will either overestimate the importance of money and things in an attempt to conserve what we have and seize what is available, or we will recognize that there is no ultimate security in money and things and begin to hold on to what we have with a looser grip.  God is calling us to the latter course of action.  May repentance begin in the church, and may the church be the antithesis of the Black Friday madness.

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