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We're better than this, aren't we?

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday provides us with a wonderful opportunity to think about the many ways that God has blessed us and express our gratefulness to Him.  Yet buttressed up against this day of thinking and thanking is Black Friday --- a day of rampant consumerism.  In fact, many major retailers (Target, Wal-Mart, Toys-R-Us, K-Mart, Sears), have pushed their opening times to Thanksgiving evening to accommodate the crowds.  It’s as if we are unable to devote an entire day to thanking God without pursuing our consumer addictions. 

Qualify that anyway you want, but in the end we’re left with the tension that exists between our gratitude and our greed.  How thankful are we really if the day we have set aside to give thanks has to be interrupted by a shopping spree?  I’m having trouble imagining an Israelite at the temple giving thanks to God but keeping one eye on the sun dial to make sure they didn’t miss the midday madness sale at the marketplace. 

Of course, gratitude isn’t something seasonal to be pulled out of the closet with the Pilgrim hats and plastic pumpkins --- it’s an attitude that we’re to possess throughout the year.  Paul speaks of Spirit-filled people “always giving thanks” (Ephesians 5:18-20).  Having a grateful heart across the calendar is what honors our Father, not possessing it for a single day.  Nonetheless, the day is called “Thanksgiving” for a reason and for most people it functions that way --- at least until the stores open.
Speaking of the stores, what about the people who are denied a complete day of Thanksgiving with their loved ones because it's their job to sell us the stuff we could purchase at some other time?  Many people won’t be able to have a Thanksgiving because they have to police our communities, staff our hospitals, and provide other essential services.  In giving thanks, we should remember those who sacrifice the day in order to do these things.  Why do we want to unnecessarily add more people to this list?

But what about the fact that we can save a substantial amount of money by interrupting our Thanksgiving and the Thanksgiving of others?  And with this, we’ve arrived at the heart of the issue which is the issue of our hearts.  Saving a few dollars is worth more than spending the day away giving thanks and allowing others to also have the opportunity to do so.  Only in America are we able to put a price tag on gratitude.  We are thankful but not at the expense of reduced prices.  We’ll exchange a deficit in our values for a gain in our bank account. 

Make no mistake, the retailers do not rule here.  This situation exists because consumers allow it to.  If nobody came, the stores wouldn’t open and they would end up having the same sales at some other time.  Shame on the retailers for selling out Thanksgiving.  Shame on us for following and choosing greed over gratitude. 

Are there bigger problems in the world than this?  Absolutely.  But don’t most of them come back to whether we will choose principled lives over selfish pursuits? 

We’re better than this, aren’t we?
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