The problem with Black Friday
Don’t get me wrong. The problem is neither retail nor shopping, per se. These can both be good things in their own right, and I have all the respect in the world for those who operate businesses (and those who have to work especially hard this weekend).
The problem is that the trappings of consumerism have been elevated into ultimate things. In other words, they have become idols. So in the Large Catechism Luther writes,
“Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and, possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth.”
As Luther points out, the cult of Mammon—or we might call it the Church of Consumerism—has long been claiming worshipers, and Black Friday has become its high holy day.
The growing chasm
By designating the post-Thanksgiving consumer orgy as “Black Friday,” it also helps put the growing chasm between the Church of Christ and the Church of Consumerism into stark relief.
Because the Church of Christ already has a Black Friday.
We more often call it Good Friday, but before it was “good” it was dark, dread and drear, it was the blackest of days that looked to profit nothing. “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
The day of our Lord’s crucifixion, when the Son of God was trampled by the masses and tacked up on the crossbeam like a doorbuster flyer—that day is the first “Black Friday.” And for my money, it is the only one that matters.
This Black Friday does not lift us into the the black, but out of it: the abyss of death, the void of vanity. It’s not about satisfaction for self but satisfaction for sin. This is diametrically opposed to the kind of salvation on offer by the Church of Consumerism’s “gospel.”
In that pseudo gospel, you are promised salvation not by grace, but by goods. The beatific vision is seeing your hoped-for gadget still present on the shelf. And happiness is a warm Starbucks latte.
You cannot worship two Black Fridays
“No one can serve two masters,” Jesus said. “For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” That duel is on full display today. You cannot worship two Black Fridays. One will leave more than your wallet empty; the other will keep more than your stocking filled.
Go shopping if you must; with four kids, I understand the appeal of exceptional sales. But let’s refuse to worship at the Church of Consumerism. Let’s whole-heartedly serve the Lord who busted down the doors of Hell to purchase us for Himself—not with gold or silver, and with nary a coupon or price-cut, but at the exorbitant cost of His holy, precious blood.