On this Thanksgiving, many of us will gather with loved ones and celebrate the many things we are grateful for. The tone shifts dramatically though tomorrow, on what many of us know as Black Friday. Black Friday typically marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, where everything from TVs to toaster ovens seems to go on sale. Many of us feel that impulse to break out our wallets and snag that deal.
But if you’re like me, it’s just a matter of time before a lot of these purchases end up collecting dust in the garage or basement. The impact that the items had on our overall happiness was short-felt, and likely expired forever.
About a month ago, we had an ACE class entitled “What your money says about you.” One of the passages we looked at was Luke 16:1-13, also known as the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. One of the insights Jesus communicates through the parable is that the money we have is really God’s money; we are all simply stewards, or managers, of it. And in Jesus’s mind, the resources he entrusts to us can either be wasted and used towards frivolous ends; or they can be used to bless others in a way that truly echoes in eternity.
This holiday season, retailers will unleash strong campaigns to try and get us to buy their stuff. What they likely care about most is not the well-being of our souls, but about hitting their bottom lines and staying “in the black,” at whatever the cost. When we feel the urge to break out our wallets in response, there’s a helpful purchasing framework from Tiffany Aliche, a personal finance educator we quoted in class: is what I’m about to buy a true “need” that is an essential for living? Or is it simply a “want,” a frivolous purchase with a short-term happiness expiration date?
I would also encourage us to let these moments be an opportunity to examine our money habits more holistically: to manage and use it well; to systematically make an impact by being a blessing to those beyond ourselves; and to give glory to the One who along with his Son graciously gives us all things.
Peter Hwang serves as a Ruling Elder and recently taught an adult Sunday School with this same title.