Avarice at Advent: A Theonomic perspective on Black Friday. Aren’t some things worth waiting for?

Added about 5 years ago by Andrew Lightbown

A guest blog post by Andrew Lightbown, editor of Theonomics.

Today the world seems to have gone retail mad! The message of Black Friday is: spend, spend, and spend some more. And, by the way, don’t stop to think of the impact of your behaviour on others.

The BBC News website reports that “police have been called to supermarkets across the UK amid crowd surges as people hunt for Black Friday offers.” Now, hunting can be a dangerous ‘sport’, so it is no surprise that the BBC also say that “in one Tesco store in Manchester three men were arrested and a woman was hurt by a falling television.

Visa estimates that £518 million of purchases will be made online by credit card, so it is clear that Black Friday purchases may result in ever greater levels of household debt. Bizarrely Black Friday’s tentacles spread beyond the high-street and off into cyber space. A colleague—an Archdeacon no less!—told a group of colleagues this morning that she had decided to see what offers were available for coffee machines using her iPad, and received a message saying that there was a one hour queue for coffee machines. So much for electronic purchases saving time!

I was asked how I felt about Black Friday from a theological, or faith, perspective. I suppose my first thought was one of ill-ease, the whole concept seems a bit indecent. But, this isn’t really a faith perspective for I am sure that many people, who wouldn’t associate themselves with any of the religions, feel the same. 

But I think there is one central idea, expressed through the Advent, that does speak prophetically against Black Friday, and that is the idea of deferred gratification.

Where Black Friday says buy, buy and do it now, Advent responds no, wait. Advent’s message to all of us is yes, but not just yet.

Through the Advent Season, Christians reflect on the gift they are about to receive—a gift beyond value, a gift which cannot be purchased, a gift worth waiting for.

Advent leads into Christmas when we receive the greatest of gifts, the vulnerable Christ Child. It is a gift Christians are asked to cherish (cherish, I think is a way of valuing and caring for someone, or something, without considering price and cost) and share the gift. 

I suspect that most of the goods purchased on Black Friday will not be cherished; instead they will simply be used in the vain pursuit of happiness. But, these goods won’t make us happy, for if they did we wouldn’t bother replacing them. Black Friday seeks to reduce human flourishing to consumption, and that is irreligious.

Advent, in some senses, owns one of the marketing industry’s most famous strap lines, “because you’re worth it”, but at the same time asks us to reflect on the fact that the virtue is in the waiting, for when we wait for something we truly desire we are more likely to cherish, share it and, yes, enjoy it.

Go on and wait a little while longer, because you are worth it.

Theonomics: Reconnecting Economics with Virtue and Integrity, edited by Andrew Lightbown and Peter Sills, is available from Sacristy Press.


Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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