In 2015, shoppers spent over $32 billion in stores on Black Friday, and over $3 billion online on Cyber Monday. The United Nations estimates that it would cost around $30 billion per year to end world hunger forever.
In other words, if everybody who went shopping over Thanksgiving weekend donated the same amount of money that we spent on products, the whole world of people, all 7 billion of us, would be fed every day next year.
Not to over-simplify the problem here--but don't you find this...interesting?
Personally, I find statistical comparisons like this to be downright sickening. Now, I will be totally transparent with you in acknowledging the fact that I am no saint when it comes to giving of myself for the good of others. I've made my fair share of meaningless or selfish purchases in my lifetime.
I'm also aware that there is no such thing as an unbiased statistic. We can use statistics to to say whatever we want them to say. But if you happened to drive by a Walmart or a Best Buy late Thursday night, or if you have received several dozen "SALE" emails from fill-in-the-blank.com last week, it is safe to conclude that our culture has a problem.
Our problem has been around for thousands of years, it is not new to us. Materialism, greed, covetousness, discontentedness--all of these stew and stir in the hearts of human beings as we compare ourselves and our possessions to others.
Maybe back then it was, "Man...I could really use a few more blank parchments and a fancier quill," compared to now, "Man...I would really dig the 7 new Xbox games being released, and probably will need another TV."
Scripture has many examples and warnings about the detrimental effect that this problem has on our spiritual life. In Luke Ch. 12, Jesus teaches us to, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (vs. 15). Oh, how easily we equate our "life" status with what we own compared to that of others!
Jesus goes on to talk about the concept of what we "treasure" and how we are so easily worried and anxious about our own possessions and needs (vs. 21-33), leading up to the famous verse, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (vs. 34). Inevitably, our fallen hearts will follow and worship whatever we treasure most. Quite frankly, how we spend our money is a very clear indicator of what we treasure most.
On top of these words of wisdom, Jesus also clearly indicates his heart for the poor, inviting us to participate with him in generously meeting the needs of those who are suffering (vs. 33), much in the same way that he benevolently meets all of our needs day-in and day-out.
What does this mean for us on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?
First, we must acknowledge and repent of our culture's problem. There is no denying it. We seek for physical comfort, for social status, for security, and for pleasure in the things we buy instead of in Jesus Christ. Deep down, we all know that Jesus is the only One who can comfort us, give us an identity, keep us safe, and satisfy our longings.
Second, we must believe that God loves us and will certainly provide for our needs--but not necessarily all of our wants. Hebrews 13:5 says, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Never means never--this is a true comfort indeed. But this kind of trusting contentment takes practice.
Third, we must open our eyes and our ears to the cries of the poor. Jesus said that the poor will "always be among us" (Mark 14:7). All of Scripture is full of powerful, commanding statements about the expectation on God's people to serve the poor (the list is too long for parentheses!). The very heart of the Gospel itself is the merciful, gracious, sacrificial gift of Jesus Christ given freely to a sinful and undeserving world of people. In light of this, how can we not desire to give and share these blessings we have with others?
Brothers and sisters, we can all do so much better--myself included! Instead of the same-old-same-old tale of flagrant materialism, what if we banded together as the Body of Christ to give to those in need during this Thanksgiving season?
The impact would be truly incredible. I imagine that all of Heaven would rejoice at such an obedient act of generosity. Tomorrow, November 29th, 2016 - we will have the opportunity to unite and show the world what the love of Jesus looks like during a "me-first," "my stuff" season. Let's do #GivingTuesday together better than we ever have before - every penny counts.