The day after Thanksgiving in the US is often called “Black Friday.” It use to be the day that merchants were “in the black” for the year and they saw the rest of the year up to Christmas as their time to make a profit for the year. But marketers learned many years ago that they can drive a lot of us to stores for the busy holiday season by putting on huge “sales” on this day and stories of pushing and shoving and general mayhem only made this day after Thanksgiving more “black!”
Black Friday sales and the whole hoopla associated with it is the ugliest part of our consumer society. It reduces us to mere consumers and our love to what we can “get” for those whom we say we love. It plugs into the place in our soul that is all to easily satisfied with temporary “things.” Ultimately, it is de-humanizing.
Look at our Gospel lesson on this Black Friday. It’s found in Luke 19:12-28:
The Lord said this parable, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Trade with these till I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.’ (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) ‘I tell you, that to everyone who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.'” And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
This powerful parable of the “pounds” is like the parable of the “talents” in another place. It reflects the reality of the gifts, privileges, and abilities given to each of us in our time, talents, and treasures. And it challenges us to take stock of how we have invested our lives and used our gifts. Have we squandered our time, talents, and treasures, or have we allowed our fear to steal our best from our lives? Have we truly been awake to the temporariness of our lives here and has that reality spurred us toward making the most of our time here in this life? Do we know why we are here?
Struggling with these questions is impossible without first embracing the defining reality of God coming to us in the flesh to exalt our creation to what it was meant to be. When I come to grips with the truth that God has become enfleshed so that I may, by grace, become “engodded” then, and only then, will I realize just why my time, talents, and treasures are so valuable in the first place and how to use them for eternal return.
Today, you will be tempted to reduce your value to what you can purchase or receive. Avoid this reduction of your real self by taking the courageous path of a purposeful Orthodoxy and know your worth precisely by the value God has placed on you by becoming like you to save you! Be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. From a regular reader – Thank you father Barnabas. You make everything seem so normal and so hopeful! Today launches our annual giving campaign for Faith Encouraged ministries. Please consider an end-of-the-year gift or even a monthly sustaining gift to strengthen our media outreach for next year. Go to https://faithencouraged.org/make-a-donation/ and make a gift to FEM on this Black Friday!