So people went crazy once again on Black Friday. Have you seen the videos of the lines wrapping around stores. . . not on Friday, but on Thanksgiving night?!? Did you see how people pushed, shoved, and rushed once retailers’ doors were opened. And people went crazy yesterday on what’s become known as “Cyber Monday.” Reports are that consumer online purchases yesterday exceeded last year’s total by 28%. Supposedly we can attribute the rise in spending to the rise in volume of hand-helds. We’re now tethered to “the mall” and “retail therapy” can be indulged 24/7.
How we spend our money and time speak loudly about who we really are. And when we spend our time spending our money. . . well, that’s just downright scary. When I was a sociology major during my college days I was introduced to the work of the French social critic Jacques Ellul. He’s worth reading. A Christian, Ellul wrote, “The first great fact that emerges from our civilization is that today everything has become ‘means.’ There is no longer an ‘end”; we do not know whither we are going. We have forgotten our collective ends, and we possess great means: we set huge machines in motion in order to arrive nowhere.” I believe that if Ellul were alive today, his “huge machines” would include cash registers, credit card terminals, and anything on which we do online shopping.
In his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes about the ineffectuality of our efforts to buy happiness, satisfaction, and redemption in anything but life in Christ: “A common but futile strategy for achieving joy is trying to eliminate things that hurt: get rid of pain by numbing the nerve ends, get rid of insecurity by eliminating risks, get rid of disappointment by depersonalizing your relationships. And then try to lighten the boredom of such a life by buying joy in the form of vacations and entertainment.” We might add to that last sentence, “or anything else for that matter.”
We’ve run ourselves full speed ahead to the brink of what folks are now calling “the fiscal cliff.” We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need and we get nothing of lasting substance in return. Unfulfilled, we continue to run (by spending) towards our demise. The great and very sad irony is that the way we conduct ourselves during the season set aside to celebrate the coming of the Redeemer in a manner that reveals how we are looking for redemption everywhere. . . except where we should.