These are three reasons from a fellow deal-hunter that make me think #GivingTuesday is a much the better deal than Black Friday, “the biggest shopping day of the year,” or its online counterpart: #CyberMonday.
1. The deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are simply not all they are hyped up to be.
Business Insider reports: “While there are some opportunities to save money on Black Friday, you can often find some of the most popular Black Friday items at lower prices at other times during the year.” Many Black Friday deals start “way before Black Friday” according to shopping savvy Deal News. The same goes for #CyberMonday as this staff writer on the Huff Post reports.
2. Shopping is bad therapy.
Black Friday and #CyberMonday occur right after one of the main family-gathering events of the year: Thanksgiving. (We will get to the relationship between Thanksgiving and consumerism in a minute.) But is it any wonder that for many of us who have difficulty with relatives or who have had to miss out on time with loved ones this year because of work, that Black Friday is so timed as to offer “shopping therapy” for our difficult relationships or work schedules—both of which the holidays are expert at bringing up.
Distraction and the false sense of control that shopping can provide, do not offer the sort of therapy we need, as we well know. Nevertheless, it is our knee-jerk reaction in a consumer culture and to the successful marketing campaigns that get our hearts palpitating, family struggles forgotten, in the scrappy hustle for a slice of the good life at a steal. Biblical wisdom would point us to a much different approach and one our culture is also (if feebly) celebrating: thanksgiving.
3. We need practice when it comes to thanksgiving.
This is especially true for those of us who know “the secret.” I don’t mean to sound like a gnostic, I am just quoting Paul: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Whoa. Paul, English please. I don’t think I get it, unless he is somehow talking about an iPhone 7. Jesus has hope for us and seems to think we can understand what Paul is talking about: “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin.”
By “considering the lilies” Jesus invites us to consider the abundance of diversity and beauty in creation. For example, did you know there are 20,000 species of butterflies in the world?! God is inviting us to enjoy His abundance. Compare this to the scarcity mentality of Black Friday and #CyberMonday shopping: I need to get my slice of the good life before someone gets there first!
Thanksgiving: The Road from Scary Scarcity to Non-Anxious Abundance
The road from a scary scarcity to a non-anxious abundance is thanksgiving. And the first stop on that road is an overlook to marvel at God’s abundance in creation and see how incredibly rich God is. I am reminded of the Looking Glass Rock Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But there is another stop to make on this road, to continue the analogy perhaps too long, and it is to see Jesus—duh, the Christian answer that is always right, but don’t miss it—we see in Jesus Christ how God wields His great riches and abundance: by sharing them.
Paul’s great “secret” to contentment is Christ. Because of Christ, we may be thankful—not necessarily for everything (who should be thankful for the plight of many children in Africa?) but in everything we have cause to be thankful! See what Paul does there in 1 Thessalonians 5:18? We are to be thankful in not always for everything about our circumstances. We may give thanks that God is at work in Africa in many big and small ways and that ultimately, in Jesus’ coming Kingdom, there will be no more under-nourished, neglected, impoverished children.
Here is one way Paul sums up “the secret”at the heart of his abundant theology in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
What Do We Do with Our Riches?
Luke recounts an amazing story of Jesus healing ten diseased men in 17:11-19. The twist of the story occurs at the end when only one person comes to thank him: a Samaritan. The outsider, the Samaritan in this case, responds better to God’s abundant love than the people God has known and loved, the Jews in this story. Jesus often uses outsiders to indict our sense of presumption with God. We can be shocked to wakefulness by the thanksgiving of someone who doesn’t know God as well as us, or so we thought.
I wonder how we as Christians need to be humbled by outsiders or those who wouldn’t call themselves Christians? I think of the #OptOutside movement that has so winsomely tried to address the consumerism in our culture particularly around the Black Friday and #CyberMonday time of year. They have in a sense spoken a helpful critique to our lack of thanksgiving. Where is this prophetic voice from the Church that might “subversively” (as Eugene Peterson tends to use the term) point to Christ where there is life abundant? Could this #GivingTuesday be just such an action and prove itself a better deal to our hearts than Black Friday or #CyberMonday? If not, I hope something will show us for who we are as much more than unsatisfied consumers of “the good life” being marketed to us; and instead, enjoy being well-fed by our Savior and richly-blessed to be a blessing.
This #GivingTuesday is November 28:
There are many ways to practice this kind of Thanksgiving this year. Serge has many different opportunities for giving, but however you give, it is important to remember that God longs for our hearts when we give, not just our money or stuff.