Black Friday is almost like a national holiday in America. Many offices are closed and many people use vacation days to enjoy an extended weekend away from work. Some of those people, and maybe some of you, spend the day shopping as they seek to take advantage of special holiday sales to complete their Christmas shopping.
None of that, in and of itself, is a bad thing. However, the underlying attitude and message is what concerns me: the idea that the purpose of life is to consume and that more is always better. I’m not immune to this; I see the deals on new televisions and think, “Our TV is seven years old! I deserve a new one…and look at that sale price.” Now, I’ve never caved and purchased a TV on Black Friday, but every year it’s a bit of a temptation. I’m tempted to buy into our cultural idolatry of consumerism and materialism.
In Acts 17, Paul walks through the streets of Athens and sees statues and images that revealed the idolatry of the people. He recognized that they were groping for something —purpose and meaning in life — but coming up empty because they were looking in the wrong places. I wonder if Paul would walk through our malls, especially on Black Friday, and feel those same feelings and think those same thoughts.
For the most part, we’ve bought into a cultural narrative that more things, bigger things, and better things will always serve to enhance our lives. “If I only got that new car, that new house or that new dress, then I would be happy!” We go to the mall seeking satisfaction but, to our dismay, within weeks we are just as empty as before we had left. We reached out to our “unknown gods” and found them lacking, but surely we will reach again.
What if, instead of continuing this cycle, we decided that enough is enough? What if we decided to be content with what we have and seek satisfaction in Christ alone? Perhaps instead of seeking the next big deal to satisfy our craving to consume, we would find rest and joy in simplicity and a relationship with Jesus.
Most of us aren’t running around on Black Friday trying to appease unknown gods, but we may be looking to purchase our way to happiness and joy. We are looking to Apple, Target and Walmart to provide us with a glimpse of joy during the holiday season. We are hoping that the right purchase — whether for ourselves or someone else — will bring us contentment and peace. But, again and again, we try and it fails.
This year, let’s take our eyes off of the pretty things lining the store windows and set our eyes on Jesus, the only One who can bring true happiness, joy, contentment, and peace.
Dustin Speaks is the Mission Mobilization Pastor. He and his wife, Lauren, arrived in Columbus in the fall of 2012, after several initial ministry experiences. Dustin previously served as an associate pastor in South Dakota and as a missionary to university students in Berlin, Germany. Dustin studied history at Ohio University, where he met Lauren, and was involved in campus ministry with Cru. After graduation, the Speaks went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Chicago) to complete a degree in Intercultural Studies. He enjoys playing nearly all ball sports—basketball, golf, and soccer are his favorites. Dustin and Lauren have three young children.