Acton Institute Powerblog

Black Friday: A Day of Hyper Generosity?

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

For many, Black Friday epitomizes everything nasty American hyper-consumerism. Stores everywhere are plagued with overly aggressive shoppers, each stuffed to the brim with carb-laden Thanksgiving chow and yet ever-more hungry for the next delicious deal.

It’s all rather disgusting, no?

Quite the contrary, argues Chris Horst over at OnFaith. “Black Friday may have its warts, but let’s not forget the reason for the Black Friday season,” he writes. “The DNA of Black Friday is generosity.”

Wielding a fine mix of basic economics, Christian history, and some good old nostalgia, Horst encourages us to not get caught up in anti-consumerist dismay and instead kick off the holiday season with charity and cheer:

Black Friday commences the Christmas season. This year, Sunday commemorates the official start of the Advent season, but for most Americans, Black Friday initiates the nostalgia and cheer we love most about December. It orients our imaginations toward others and away from ourselves…It’s when Americans turn their attention away from turkey and football and toward buying gifts for one another. We move from Thanksgiving to generosity, shifting from gratefulness for what we have to open-handedness toward those around us…

…Even more, this event is good news for more than just festive shoppers. Black Friday is a big deal for our economy and, consequently, a big deal for all of us…The $600 billion we spend on FitBits, Patagonia ski jackets, and hand-thrown pottery doesn’t just evaporate when we spend it. Those purchases create and sustain livelihoods in garage workshops in our neighborhoods and in warehouses across the globe. They help hobbyists turn their handiwork into employment and give many around the world a shot at a decent job.

This Black Friday, suppress your inner Grinch when you’re tempted to share the story of yet another crazy person fighting over a scarce number of flat screen TVs. Embrace the redemptive side of Black Friday, one that celebrates this season of family and generosity and one that propels our economy forward.

Horst duly notes the many dangers that still lurk, agreeing with Jordan Ballor that we ought to maintain a proper rhythm between work and rest, consigning Black Friday to Friday, avoiding Thanksgiving overreach, and so on. Further, he offers numerous warnings against “mindless consumerism and one-upsmanship” in our efforts to be generous, encouraging us to retain wisdom, humility, and love across all of our exchanges. And then we mustn’t forget that Black Friday can, of course, easily become just another day about ourselves and our pet products.

Yet if we keep an eye out for these pitfalls, what a glorious day it can be, heightening the divine gift-giving of everyday economic exchange — trading, creating, collaborating — and pairing such acceleration with a spirit of material generosity and selflessness.

As with most economic opportunities, it’s up to us how we shape our activities, and Horst does us a service in pointing the way forward. As we shop this Friday and in the days thereafter, let’s do so with a spirit set on things above, celebrating family, generosity, and the mysteries of economic exchange and provision.


Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.


  • Alberto Hurtado

    Interesting idea. However, this melding of the Christian and secular is highly syncretistic and ignores the underlying realities of the penitential preparation that is advent. Not that it is all “doom and gloom” but it is a stretch to say that the underlying motivation for black friday is harmonious with the Christian viewpoint on this season. Most Black Friday people interviewed display first the thrill of the chase and then the rather me-first response “I got a great deal….”

    Not buying what you are trying to sell here. Sorry.

  • T.L. Curtis

    Many of those folks out shopping are, of course, looking for gifts for other people. That’s certainly generous. Yes, some people get injured in the hysteria and that is unfortunate, but it hardly impunes the Black Friday sales or the businesses that promote them. We do not condemn swimming pools because a small number of people have drowned in them. Nor do we condemn the “corporate greed” of swimming pool manufacturers.

  • Shelly

    If nothing else, this article shows, how gullible the American public is to fall for the now old and tired story of “rampages and tramplings” at Black Friday events. To all the naysayers, let’s just admit that you like Socialism and economic freedom, and freedom in general, is distasteful to you. It’s more intellectually honest than letting the media totally do your thinking for you.

  • Shelly

    er, dislike freedom…..sorry for the clumsy fingers

  • Shelly

    While we’re at it, let’s disparage Black Friday because we should all feel guilty for being white and heterosexual. Sorry, I’m not buying the comment section in this article. Some of you may indeed be sincere in your gullible beliefs, but you are sincerely wrong.

  • jacksonf

    Black Friday is the ultimate symbol of the “me” generation and rich, white, Republican nutjobs. I am ashamed to be an American on that day, just as I’m ashamed that our country is turning more radical right all the time, as seen in the last election. This Shelly person is obviously mentally ill and it’s good to see that her views are in the minority. I apologize for all the readers who have to put up with radical right wingnuts like her when the system operators don’t delete her comments.