Okay, please don’t tell! I mean what we say here, stays here…right? I might as well fess up. Last year, I went shopping (now don’t be a hater) on Thanksgiving Day. Somehow we’d run out of some item to finish preparing for our Thanksgiving Dinner. I’m going to pull an Adam. “It was the woman that I’m married to…” I would never have committed such a heinous, gauche act if it weren’t for Jane’s influence. To be candid, it was a pretty terrible experience. Already, they were blocking off aisles and setting up displays getting ready for Black Friday. I had to go to the back of the store for something. So many aisles were blocked off, I wasn’t sure I was going to ever get out of there. It was not a good experience.
Boycott Black Friday is a reaction against some of the craziness of recent Black Fridays and that more stores, to gain that extra bottom line edge, are not just opening up at insane hours on Friday, they’re even opening on Thanksgiving Day. More than 40,000 people have joined the “Boycott Black Friday” Facebook group to demonstrate against any store that opens on Thanksgiving.
Personally, I’ve never shopped on Black Friday and other than that one time excursion for a few missing ingredients, I don’t remember ever shopping on Thanksgiving. But I don’t think that there is anything wrong with it. I have a hard time finding a moral right or wrong there.
Do I believe that people ought to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving together? Sure. Do I think that families should have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving together? Absolutely. Yet, if their employer decides to open up on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas or any other holiday, it’s not wrong.
For years, our family made an annual trek from Wisconsin to Michigan to celebrate Thanksgiving. I’ve driven through more snow and ice storms than I want to ever recount. Looking back, I’m so thankful that salt truck drivers had to work. I’m glad police, fire, rescue and even wreckers were available. I’m sure they all wanted to be home with their families, too. I was also very thankful for those few “greedy” gas station operators open on Thanksgiving Day.
Yes, those are all either emergency or needed services. While some might disagree with me, I think you’d have a hard time justifying football as an emergency or needed service. But I don’t remember anyone complaining that the players, coaches, not to mention all of the concession staff have to work. Can you imagine Thanksgiving though without football? Did you know that the NFL tradition of playing games on Thanksgiving goes all the way back to the league’s inception in 1920. It’s not some recent greedy development? And what about Thanksgiving Day parades? Some churches actually have Thanksgiving Day Services (try to do that here and I’ll have file a union grievance J).
Being an avid bargain hunter, I have difficulty finding fault with those who are willing to stand in line a few hours to save money or obtain that special item their child has his or her heart set on. Nearly all of us have things we’d stand in line for hours for, it just has to be the right thing. For you, it might be to purchase tickets to a playoff or championship game, or a concert by your favorite musician. It could be to have a chance to see some celebrity or famous person. It might even to be one of the first through the doors of a book sale (not that I actually know someone who’s done that…)
My point is that the human heart loves to feel good about itself, about the “sins” it doesn’t commit. Mine does. All of us have a little Pharisee in our souls. It can be anything from behaviors or addictions, to spending habits or political positions. We tend to look down our self-righteous noses at those who don’t live “righteously” like us.
Please understand. I’m not suggesting that we rationalize or close our eyes to real sin. Yet, I find that the “sins” most of us get all bent out of shape about are more behavioral and lifestyle choices than what the Bible would call “sin.” Then, when we are bothered about what’s truly a sin, we tend to be more concerned about sins of the flesh than sins of the spirit. Sins of the flesh would be behaviors like immorality, drunkenness, idolatry, rage, profanity, etc. Yet, we’re apt to overlook the sins of the spirit like envy, pride, bitterness, hatred, greed, etc. Most of us have an internal scale of what we consider a “big” sin and what we consider “little” ones. While homosexuality is a big sin, lust or even sharing dirty jokes isn’t. Profanity is a biggie, yet gossip or complaining are small ones. Stealing is detestable, yet a little selfishness is just normal. We all too quickly succumb to the sin of self-righteousness.
John Calvin insightfully observed, “The human heart is an idol factory... Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols.” The idol that we all find most tempting to worship – is me! Those of us who are most fervent for the truth and righteousness often mistake self-righteous pride for godly zeal. We convince ourselves we’re fighting for godliness and faithfulness, but in subtle ways our passion becomes about our identity, our rightness, our purity, our truth. It becomes less and less about who God is, His glory and His name, and more about us and our reputation, even good feelings that we’re the “holy ones.”
We must get a firm grip on this spiritual reality – true godliness always results in great humility. The closer you draw to the Lord, the more you realize how much God loves you even though He knows every dark corner of your soul. The more you see who you really are, the more that you throw yourself on His mercy and grace. We are not good people. Most of the time, we’re not even nice. Romans 3 is sadly an honest diagnosis of who and what we are: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God…no one does good.”
It is God’s mercy alone—not our intellect, background, personal righteousness, good works, or any other factor. That’s the reason why we’ve embraced Christ. And it’s only the indwelling Holy Spirit in our hearts that produces any true goodness. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22-23). It’s totally Him, His fruit and work, not ours.
Regularly returning to this foundational truth should make us the most humble and the most grateful people. We know that all that we are is because of Him and His grace. It is truly all of grace. That continual realization is so liberating as it executes pride and cultivates true humility.