The biggest shopping day of the year is right around the corner. And lots of people are talking about whether or not we should go out shopping on Thanksgiving and what it means about our culture and society that Black Friday is becoming almost a bigger Holiday than the one that we will celebrate tomorrow.
I overhead a lady one time gushing about how much she LOOOOOVES (insert hands pressed to chest and eyes squinted shut) shopping and how she was SO excited for Black Friday because she just LOVES shopping so much.
And as all of the commercials, ads filling my mail box, and talk about Black Friday (and now Black Thursday too) have been bombarding me this week, this topic has been weighing on my mind. So as I listened to this woman go on about shopping and Black Friday, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, “Should Christians LOVE shopping?”
It’s a loaded question. I know. But one I have to ask.
The thing is, I could easily be that woman. All through high school, college, and my early married years, if you had asked me what my hobbies were, shopping would have been listed among the top, if not at the top, of the list.
I LOVED shopping. There was a thrill in so many possibilities. Finding the perfect outfit, or purse, or pair of shoes. Or all three together – even better. And don’t even get me started on the clearance racks. I spent much of my free time at the mall and that irresistible store with the red target. (Oh shoot, did I just give it away?)
So many things to buy, never enough time to buy them all. Not to mention the money thing, but back then, money wasn’t too much of an issue for us.
Then two big things happened:
2) While at the same time my husband lost his job and we were thrust into the world of living less than paycheck to paycheck, where our income was less than our day-to-day expenses.
Suddenly not only was shopping as a hobby just not possible for me, but in the light of what I was reading and learning, it no longer felt appropriate for me as a follower of Jesus.
So now, almost 6 years later, when I hear someone at Bible study say that they loooove shopping. It makes me pause. It makes me think.
It makes my stomach hurt and my heart ache.
Because I don’t think that is quite what Jesus had in mind for His followers.
At Bible study this year we are going through the book of Matthew, where Jesus says things like:
“Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
And, “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, give him your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:40-42
And, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Matthew 6:25
I think it’s evident throughout the Gospels and Jesus’ teachings, as well as the Bible as a whole, that followers of Christ are not to be materialistic or consumeristic. We are not to love, or place our hope in, our stuff or accumulating that stuff.
As Francis Chan says in Crazy Love, “When we put it plainly like this – as a direct choice between God and our stuff – most of us hope we would choose God. But we need to realize that how we spend our time, what our money goes toward, and where we will invest our energy is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting Him. How could we think for even a second that something on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?” (p. 97)
And one more verse, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
That last one is for me.
I don’t pretend to know all the details of someone’s life and circumstances and why they say they love shopping. And I really don’t pretend to understand why people actually enjoy going out and shopping in the craziness that is Black Thursday/Friday.
But I’ll tell you what I do know. I know that since I stopped shopping as a hobby, out of both necessity and conviction, that it has changed everything about the way that I view myself, God, my faith, and other people.
I mean really, shopping is very self-indulgent. Isn’t it?
It’s all about me and what I want, and oh, that’s so cute, and what a great deal that is, and look how much I saved, and and oh, I neeeed that! It’s all about me and accumulating stuff. (Unless you’re shopping to give to someone truly in need, but then I still think we have to be careful of our motives.)
And let’s not even get into the moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding the stuff we are actually purchasing – like slave labor, child labor, horrendous working conditions, environmental destruction, and more. All so we can buy stuff that we like and want. All because shopping makes us feeeel good.
But do you really feel better about yourself and more loving toward God and other people after an all-out shopping spree?
In my experience, no.
Because there was always something you wanted but didn’t or couldn’t get. Always something that someone else has that you don’t. Or a twinge of guilt that you bought something you probably couldn’t afford.
Because it’s never enough.
The problem with shopping is that it is focused on accumulating things that moth and rust destroy. Then, because they are so easily destroyed – they get used up, worn out, replaced with the next best thing, or even just go “out-of-style” – they need to be replaced with more shopping. It’s a cycle that sucks us in, chews us up, and spits us out as a mere shadow of the people God created us to be.
Because shopping doesn’t show me my true worth and value as a child of the King, or drive me to love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind. And shopping doesn’t show me the true worth and value of others, or help me to love them as myself, even if I’m buying gifts for them. Are not the people in our lives so much more important then the stuff we buy for them in an attempt to show that we care?
Okay, okay. I’m not trying to say that giving gifts is a bad thing, or that Christians should never shop. I give gifts to my kids and my family at Christmas and lots of other times. And obviously it’s not even possible to never go shopping. There will always be things in life that we need to shop for and buy.
I’m just wondering if we can do it in a way that is life-giving – both for our own souls and for the lives of others? And I’ve been trying to figure out what that looks like in my life and for my family. And I want to encourage you to do the same.
How can we move away from the crazy materialist and consumerist mentality that drives Black Friday and the love of shopping?
How can we move away from accumulating stuff as an idol in our lives and instead find a way to love God and love others even in the midst of buying things, both this holiday season and all throughout the year?
What if we thought about how we could further the Kingdom of God through our shopping, and even changed our purchasing habits if upon examination and through prayer, we find that our actions don’t line up with the Truth of Jesus’ teachings?
What if we viewed our lives as Jesus does and aimed to glorify Him in all we say and do?
What if instead of believing that there’s never enough, we truly believed in the One who IS enough for us?
Should Christians love shopping?
I don’t really think I can answer that question for you.
But I know WHO Christians should love. The Lord our God, and the beautiful people He has placed on this earth with us as our neighbors. And when are lives are focused on loving God and loving others, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of room left for love of shopping.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Christians and shopping, Black Friday craziness, or whatever other thoughts this post may have stirred up in in you. But I ask, and expect, that all comments will be respectful, even if you disagree with me.
Blessings dear friends! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebrating with your family and friends the great blessings that God has given to us. As my beloved father used to say, “The best things in life aren’t things at all!”
Top photo credit: John Henderson/Flickr
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