Gratitude and Greed: The story of Thanksgiving & Black Friday

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Photo Credit: Matt Jones

As I begin writing this post, I’m sitting in Sam’s Club waiting for tires to be put on my car. From the café area, I can see most of the store and it’s stocked to the brim with bulk food, low prices, and junk. I spent some time in the electronics area thinking about getting a Roku TV to replace the old TV/DVD/VCR combo tv we have (yes, we still have a VCR). Because of the time of year, my thoughts quickly jumped to Black Friday sales.

Most of us have the same kind of thoughts this time of year. “What’s on sale? What do I want? Where can I get it? What time do I have to get up to get the deals? I’ll be done with dinner by the time that store opens on Thanksgiving, maybe I’ll just run over and pick something up.” Then, of course, a week later we realize we still have Christmas gifts to buy since we’ve mostly bought for ourselves.

The great paradox of this week is that Thanksgiving is the day before Black Friday. Gratitude and Greed find themselves competing for space in our holiday week. Now I’m not against Black Friday and not always even against shopping on Thanksgiving, but I do think that the contrast of these holidays really shines a light on the character of our culture.

In his book God in My Everything, Ken Shigematsu writes about the working through the ACTS model of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. While to many of us, this may be a simplistic way of thinking about prayer, what we wrote about it changed my way of approaching this prayer.

“The ordering of this prayer is intentional. Many times, after having worshiped, confessed sin, and recalled God’s many gifts, the kind of requests I make at the end of the prayer are different, truer to my real situation.” [1]

Prayer is a transformative conversation that we get to have with God. If we are really letting it be that, then he can that time to change us. Before we ever get to asking God for something we are reminded of who God is, who we are, and what God has done. In this model, we open ourselves up to God’s character and let His character change who we are. Through that process our wants and desires are changed.

We live in a culture that desires stuff. We want things. You and I might want different things, but culture is always telling us we want something. Walking around Sam’s, I’m being told I want electronics and large quantities of food. The way that our culture celebrates Thanksgiving week is with food and shopping. While we say we are setting aside time for gratitude, our actions say we’re trying to be get our hands on new stuff.

I hope that you will take the time to let meaning of tomorrow sink in before you do any Black Friday (or even Thursday) shopping. Before you fulfill your wants or even shop for others, truly take the time thank God for what you do have. Let that gratitude sink down into your heart. It might just change the way we shop and what we shop for.

“While gratitude will never be so automatic that we can stop being intentional about it, it won’t take long before we start seeing the world with new eyes. All around us are traces of God’s blessings. Gratitude reveals just how porous the line is between the material and the spiritual.” [2]

[1] Ken Shigematsu, God in my Everything. (Grand Rapid, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 72.
[2] Chris Smith and John Pattinson, Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 183.

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