American lifestyles can be a little strange to those of us who live on other continents. I was born in the UK and have lived the last seven years in continental Europe in various parts of Romania. Growing up, we would occasionally hear about the American celebration of Black Friday but did not know much about it. As I grew up, rumors that Americans flocked to stores on one particular day of the year, even camping outside all night in the cold to get some special deals became more prominent.
One day I was finally able to witness a video of a store opening on this fabled day where I watched and saw everything for myself. I saw a plethora of people huddled outside an electronics store waiting like zombies to enter and unleash carnage on the staff. The store was flooded with people as the gates opened, and I watched as people pushed, shoved, fought, and even stole items off each other. One interview was of a person who had run in purely to get something. She wanted anything, even if she did not need it. This person was now the proud owner of a vacuum cleaner they admitted they did not even need.
This is a yearly occurrence in America. Those of us in Europe would sit at our TVs in complete bewilderment at what we would see each year on the news. That was, of course, until this day began to be practiced on our shores. The first year, people were very geared up about this idea and (perhaps) the same way that Americans were; however, the day was empty and meaningless and (maybe) not as good as it was in America. The idea of black Friday quickly died out in Europe, and the very next year, it became a joke that nobody showed up for all the Black Friday “sales.”
Today, looking around popular stores, there is almost no indication that Black Friday is again about to descend on this continent (at least in Romania).
One electronic store has a sign at a local mall indicating a few days of sale related to Black Friday, but most of us know that their deals are actually “deals.”
So what can a European-based writer say about what is an American issue? Do I dare make suggestions or speak into something that is largely cultural? While somewhat hesitant, I have decided to take up this subject and tackle the reality.
Not because I am some upright European looking down on Americans, but because I am a sinful human being, looking at the practices of other sinful human beings. All I see is woe and depravity when I look at Black Friday, and I intend to help convince you of that fallen depravity as well.
Depravity in the Bible
The Doctrine of Total Depravity is not so popular today. This is for a common reason: who wants to be told that they are sinful beyond measure and lost in that sin unless God in Christ intervenes? Even those who hold to Total Depravity tend to water it down a little, saying: “Well, it does not mean that everybody is as bad as they can possibly be.” But is that what we read in Scripture?
Romans 3:10-12 tell us that:
“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”
The biblical conclusion is, then, that we are totally depraved and cannot do good. But that does not sound right, does it? How can this be the case when we do good things? Even non-believers are capable of good things, and not everybody is as bad as Hitler or Joseph Stalin, right?
That is because of grace. In our fallen nature, we are completely devoid of good. If we were left to that sinfulness, then we would be in a terrible place, all manifesting the worst of sin all the time. Thankfully, God’s grace restrains sin in this world so that not everybody acts as bad as they possibly could.
Depravity and Black Friday
How does this relate to Black Friday? Well, corporations have taken advantage of this annual event. They know people will come to their stores and manipulate them by enticing them with great deals. This world is full of pleasure-seekers, and they know it. Corporations know that we need to fill the emptiness in our lives and, without something to fill that hole, we are empty shells.
So the sales are made, and empty people fill their lonely hearts with new possessions. However, the pleasure will only last a short time before something else must fill the empty void.
We are all infected by sin; therefore, we have emptiness in our lives caused by the gaping hole that sin rips into what should have been perfection. Emptiness dictates that we do something about that hole, so we seek the most pleasing ways to remove the emptiness. We could turn to grace, but that is the hard road, so earthly possessions it is.
Consumers themselves are no better. They have bought the lie and demonstrated that, no matter what, they will get what they want. They are willing to lose sleep, violently push, stampede, and steal from others just for the sake of a discount. Truly, everybody involved shows their depravity in this way.
But this is not all. That is only one day where depravity can be seen. Each of us, day by day, walk with the seeds of depravity in our hearts. Only grace made us different from those who trample one another to get an electronic device. The reality is that all the people of this world need the grace to cover their sins, washing them in the blood of the Lamb and bringing them away from such depravity. We all need this grace, and we would all be worse than black Friday shoppers without God’s grace working in our lives.
What do we fill the void with? What can possibly fill us without ever going away or leaving us unsatisfied? Jesus, Himself, told us that He is both the Bread of Life and the Water of Life (John 4:13-14; 6:35). In Him, we find spiritual satisfaction for eternity. The new TV that you pushed somebody aside to buy will not make you happy forever. Jesus, however, will satisfy you as eternal bread and water. I beg you not to fill the hole in your life with Black Friday sales but instead look to the Lord and Savior Jesus, who died for depraved sinners like you and me.