Economics 101 & Theology 101

Three Black Friday Revelations for 2023

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Grab the BEST Black Friday deals ever! 

On screens and in print, the past month’s advertisements have pulsed nonstop. Many merchandisers have now stretched the event. What was previously a specific day now spans multi-weeks, creating thick layers of elongated marketing. 

Recall some bits of the big day’s past. Historians relate why this famous shopping day was originally dubbed “Black Friday.” Story goes that during the 1950s, overworked police and other public servants in Philadelphia deemed the notorious day black due to feeling dark and dismal. They were overwhelmed by the frenzy of shopping crowds and traffic. Eventually, business leaders and marketers monopolized on this label with a more positive spin: it’s Black Friday because of black ink on the ledgers. Thanks to booming profits!     

Many of us recall a decade ago when retailers started opening as early as midnight on the big Friday. Some even boasted of being open on Thanksgiving Day. Tsk, tsk. Eventually, the tide of public opinion turned. Kind-hearted shoppers decried the need for employees to be away from family on Thanksgiving Day. Thus, response from many store chains has been a refocus on Friday. However, the Black Friday push now includes even earlier days back in October and leading up to Thanksgiving weekend. Hence, all the hype.

The boom of online shopping persists and intensifies. We gobble up the digital deals and discounts, reflecting the convenience and popularity of e-commerce platforms. This trend has been steadily growing over the past few years, a testament to our comfort with and reliance on technology for fulfilling our shopping needs. 

What an intriguing sales phenomenon. On the current cultural landscape, what might Black Friday really show us? Three revelations emerge.

Consumer Confidence

Economic experts often look to the sales stats these days as serious indicators of consumers’ outlook about U.S. and global capitalism. With stock market volatility, worry over possible recession, and major political upheaval, this year’s forecast and outcomes will no doubt draw even more punctuated attention. A recent social media post conveyed current sentiment:

Dear Black Friday,

We all have big screen TVs. Put those groceries on sale.

Some experts are still projecting brisk and healthy outcomes this year. Watch for the coming flurry of post-Black-Friday commentary and further speculations about future consumer confidence. 

Consumerism & Materialism

Some cultural analysts take their pulse-reading to an even deeper level. Consumer awareness and concern for the environment are becoming increasingly prominent in purchasing decisions. This includes more and more emphasis on sustainability. The season’s trends may reveal even further demand for eco-friendly products and sustainable brands. Black Friday could be prime time for consumers to seek out more responsible and ethical purchasing options. 

This gargantuan sales season might supply a snapshot of our overall values. If we hear reports of robust sales, that would seem to indicate very good vibes for capitalism. Right? Right, of course, but we probably should be enthused with moderation. Balance is key. We will be wise to recall the past century’s Roaring Twenties and the unfortunate demise that followed. 

There is no denying the reality: we are all consumers, material people in a material world. It’s part of being hybrid, holistic creatures. But what’s happening when we allow runaway twin-isms like materialism and consumerism to take over and consume us? Might we actually be revealing a collective dissatisfaction with our life condition born of a consuming post-pandemic cultural malaise? Black Friday might just be supplying us all with an excuse to buy, buy—and buy some more—on our quest to fill the psychological and spiritual void in our souls.

Contentment & Christ-Honoring Values 

Certainly, it’s not wrong to lovingly, responsibly shop for good gifts for others. Our Father knows how to give good gifts (Matt. 7:11). However, let’s aim to recall what Jesus said, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Lk. 12:15).

What if more of us flip the script this Black Friday season, so that more contentment and Christ-honoring values are revealed in our lives? Consider these ideas:

  • Intentionally limit your purchasing volume, with an eye toward saving more money this season.  
  • Shop with focus on higher quality, thoughtful products over quantity of items.
  • Creatively purchase more experiences with people. How about buying special places and time with others, instead of more stuff?
  • Deliberately buy less, with the aim of giving more of what you would have spent to a Christ-centered, kingdom-advancing mission.
  • Replace some of your Black Friday shopping time with more space for gratitudemaking. Invite friends and family for a bonus time of coffee and good reflection. Make it a joyous, intentional space to be together for sharing good reflections, stories, and words of praise and thanks.

There’s no doubt about it. Black Friday reveals the broader currents of ever-changing trends in our society, the multifaceted nature of consumer behavior, and the ever-evolving relationship between people and material possessions. This year, let’s leverage the Black Friday phenomenon. Shop, yes, but make it better. Let’s make it reveal even more of what we aim to truly value as Jesus’ followers.   

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