Acton Institute Powerblog

Black Friday: A Day of Hyper Generosity?

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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.

 

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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 Christian Post, The Stream, Intellectual Takeout, Foundation for Economic Education, Patheos, LifeSiteNews, The City, Charisma News, The Green Room, 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.

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