Well it’s Black Friday today. Apparently the term originates with the Philadelphia police who derisively called it so because of the heavy traffic caused by shoppers flocking to the shops on the day after “Thanksgiving”. But in a sense it really is “Black Friday”.
I came across earlier a friend on Facebook who is celebrating “Buy Nothing Day” presumably as a degree of protest against the indulgence and excess of this day.
It is appropriately “Black Friday” because it reveals a lot which is bad about our culture:
- My happiness is in what I have.
- Pleasure-seeking through purchasing and possessions
- I must make the right purchases so I can present before others to the best effect. Then people will be impressed
- So much effort given to purchasing a commodity that is at best helpful and certainly not essential to my existence.
- The publicity it is given show that materiel pursuits are higher profile than spiritual pursuits.
I know that many can get a good bargain and save money on something that they appropriately require. That is all well and good. But it is what it reveals about the driving forces of our society that is the concern.
Christians, who are imbibing this atmosphere so easily succumb and go with the flow and evaluate what are we actually doing and what is motivating us. I conclude with the words of Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
We breathe in the air of secular humanism constantly in the West. It is the dominating philosophy and we as Christians are relentlessly exposed to its insidious teachings. Continually, we are told that God either does not exist or if He does He is not relevant. The message is that it is material goods and possessions which are vital in determining our welfare.
In such an atmosphere, all issues are viewed from a resource perspective. So governments are continually responding to matters by ‘throwing money’ at them. Politicians prove their success in dealing with a situation by how much resource has been put into a situation.
Having imbibed this culture we so easily follow suit in how we deal with matters in church. Accordingly, we look to bring blessing through bringing resources. Now, this of course has its place. Taking food resources to an impoverished family is going to bring blessing.
However, the reality is that the core problems of humanity are not to do with resources but to do with relationship. We were created to live in relationship with God and with other human beings. So much of the collapse of our society is to do with relationship breakdown. This may be on a macro scale when many people believe themselves disenfranchised from achieving in society. Or at a micro level with marriage and families in breakdown.
Resources do not rectify these breakdowns. There needs to be something deeper. It is only the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that can ultimately touch these issues and bring healing. When people are returning to a relationship with God then relationships with others start to heal.
……..and what do you really gain? History is littered with accounts of how the wealthiest people have been the most miserable. And here is a further one about the founder of Minecraft. What are we to say to this? Surely it is a reminder that the world offers so much and yet delivers so little. The world says “obsess with me and you will be fulfilled”. The reality is to the contrary. The best the world offers is generally considered to be associated with having lots of money. But the accumulation of monies still leads to the search for contentment being elusive. Money itself never brings satisfaction.
John sums up the character of the world when he says in 1 John 2:17a The world and its desires pass away. There is this fading character to all that the world offers. It is as if none of it ends up satisfying the inner needs of man.
Moreover there is an eternal perspective which needs to be considered. The interaction between the rich man’s perspectives and the Lord’s perspectives in Luke 12:13-21 is sobering. The rich man concentrated on his barns, but lost His soul. Consider these profound words from vv18-20 as the rich man reasons out his situation.
‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
Who will we obsess over God or money?
One of the lessons I am slow to learn in life is that, as a general rule, if something is cheap then it is cheap. And thereby it can be said that bargains are rare.
How many times have I bought something and it has looked good, and it has been a at a good price, and then after a while it is soon proving the adage that “if it is cheap then it is cheap”.
On the other hand we painted much of our house in 2008 with Dulux paint after receiving advice. Earlier in the week I was touching up the paintwork. It struck me how well the paint retained its colour on the wall and in the container where it had been stored for a long period. You pay extra for good quality, but you get good quality.
So Philip you must learn that a little more expenditure at the beginning can lead to the saving of much expenditure in the end. And therein is the wise use of the resources that the Lord has kindly given to us.